Despite pleas from parents and educators alike, teachers’ unions across the country have made one thing clear: Schools will only reopen at their say so, or not at all.
The Fairfax Educators Association (FEA), a major teachers’ union in Virginia, is demanding that students stay out of the classroom until the end of the school year. Carla Okouchi, the union’s vice president, argued that this is the only way to keep the Fairfax community safe.
United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) has also fought against reopening efforts, demanding a slew of left-of-center policies be put in place before schools resume in-person learning. That includes “defunding the police, increasing taxes on the wealthy, [and] implementing Medicare for all.”
But data shows that schools are not a significant source of coronavirus outbreaks. Just last month, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the Washington Post that there have not been “explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools,” as experts had once feared.
Over the summer, YMCA Camps that provided care for the children of healthcare workers and first responders had just over one percent of staff test positive for COVID. Less than one percent of students tested positive for the virus. Elliot Haspel, an education policy expert and child care advocate, said there have been “almost no recorded cases of child-to-adult transmission of COVID-19.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics even released guidance advising schools to reopen, highlighting the detrimental effects that school closures have had on children. They warned that students are receiving a subpar education and missing out on mental health resources, school nutrition programs, and socialization with their peers.
The academy noted that students who suffer the most under distance learning are children from low-income and minority families. But that doesn’t seem to bother teachers’ unions.
The FEA, UTLA, and other teachers’ unions advocating for distance learning are treating the coronavirus as a bargaining chip they’re unwilling to give up. Meanwhile, students and their teachers are being held hostage.
That’s why a campaign from the Center for Union Facts called Speak Out For Teachers is collecting video testimonials from teachers who believe students need to return to safe, in-person learning as soon as possible.
“Too many kids are sitting at home being depressed, being frustrated, being nervous. They need to be out and they need to be all together,” said one teacher from Carlsbad, California. Another teacher from Arizona summed it up perfectly: “What are we doing? We need to be back…let the union get out of the way.”