Op-Ed: COVID-19 and the Political Grandstanding of Education Unions

IMG 0494 1

My Op-Ed ran in today’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Enjoy! 

As I previously wrote (Schools Need to Remain Open), the probability of a child dying from the coronavirus is infinitesimally small. According to the CDC, a child has a better chance of being struck by lightning than dying of coronavirus. It is essential for the health, education, and lives of our children that in-person classes remain open.

Stopping in-person classes has significant ramifications on the mental health of kids. The CDC Director recently reported that increased deaths from suicide and drug overdoses due to isolation and desperation is greater than COVID deaths among high schoolers. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more than 25% of Americans aged 18-24 have seriously considered killing themselves over the coronavirus scare.

“The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the morbidity and mortality caused by the disease and to mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.”

The CDC warns of severe consequences to children if schools do not reopen for in-person classes in the Fall.

“The best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus. Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets — our children — while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families.”

The CDC’s guidance aligns with recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

Each organization acknowledges the harm done to kids in shutting down in-person classes. Ironically, it’s the teachers’ unions that that are doing the most damage to children’s education by their political grandstanding and general fear-mongering.

This week, Phoenix area teachers organized a sickout, abandoning the kids and forcing the cancellation of the first day of in-person classes. The 35,000-member strong United Teachers Los Angeles union wanted charter schools shut down, police defunded, Medicare-for-All, a wealth tax established, and a federal bailout given to their school district as terms to go back live classes this Fall. Similarly, the Durham Association of Educators in North Carolina called for the implementation of universal health care, moratoriums on rent and mortgage, and welfare benefits for illegal immigrants in order to flatten the curve and return to public school life.

What does any of this have to do with COVID-19? Absolutely nothing. It is about leveraging the coronavirus crisis to implement far-Left policies at the expense of kids’ education and mental health.

Fortunately, parents have their kids’ best interests at heart. In a recent national poll, 41% of parents say they were now more likely to enroll their child in “a home school, a neighborhood home-school co-op, or a virtual school” once the lockdowns ended.

Why? The parent-supervised learning that took place this year has opened the eyes of many parents to just how far the public schools fall short with their children’s education. Critically, they have discovered that they can do a better job at educating their kids themselves than the government can. And if not homeschooling, there are other in-person options available: charter schools, co-ops, Vo-Tech, private, and parochial schools. These are “open for business” for in-person learning.

There is also the cost factor. “Free” public schools cost taxpayers $13,847 per student per year even when done remotely, whereas a live, in-person, flagship private education costs $5,000 per student per year. If Americans had school vouchers worth just 50% of what the government spends, taxpayers could pocket that difference, and parents could give their kids a superior, live, in-person education while the government schools were shut down.

I hope that the newly enlightened tax-payers will demand that their $13,875 per year be put to more beneficial use toward their children’s education, rather than letting it be used to finance the political grandstanding of the unions which can only serve to erode our children’s futures.