We’re over a hundred days into the Biden administration and he still hasn’t delivered on his promise to open schools. Somewhere around 17,900,000 students remain either purely virtual or in hybrid learning. Now, we learn the reason why: The CDC has been conspiring with the teacher’s unions to keep kids out of class.
Throughout a more than year-long pandemic chock full of troubling developments, one of the most bizarre has to be forced closure of much of the country’s public schools, at a tremendous cost to children, particularly poor, urban children, many minorities already struggling to get by. The data has been in on in-person learning since last May and yet many schools remain either fully virtual or hybrid. Some are even wondering if it will be safe to open again next fall.
According to US News and World Report, about a seventh of students nationwide remained completely virtual as late as March 29. Burbio, an organization that monitors and reports on 1,200 school districts, including the 200 largest in the United States, found that 16.3% of K-12 students were purely virtual, 30.6% were hybrid, and 53.1% were back in school full time, meaning almost 50% of students were still not permanently back in class. This translates into millions of children, over 900,000 stuck at home and over 17,000,000 stuck in hybrid limbo.
The results have been disastrous to say the least. Last October, Bellwether Education Partners published a study finding that about 3,000,000 students have completely disappeared. Even worse, these students tend to be from the most marginalized communities. For example, in Los Angeles, “15%-20% of English learners, students in foster care, students with disabilities, and homeless students didn’t access any of the district’s online educational materials from March through May.” In Washington, DC, “back-to-school family surveys found that 60% of students lacked the devices and 27% lacked the high-speed internet access needed to successfully participate in virtual school.” In Miami-Dade County, “16,000 fewer students enrolled this fall compared with last year.”
The Bellwether Education Partners study continued, “The long-term consequences of this crisis are difficult to estimate without seeming hyperbolic. Once a student leaves school, it is difficult to reenter. One study of a large, urban district found that two-thirds of high school dropouts never reenrolled, and among those who do, about half drop out again.” This is in addition to the impact on even enrolled students mental health, such as the dramatic suicide spike in Las Vegas area schools. In short, however, you look at it, the long term closure of schools is going to negatively impact untold millions of students for years, if not decades, to come.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that reopening schools was a major issue during last fall’s presidential election. At the time, both candidates promised to reopen quickly and effectively. Even then, however, Biden hedged, and lied, saying during the second debate, “They need a lot of money to open. They need to deal with ventilation systems, smaller classes, more teachers, more pods. And [Trump has] refused to support that money, at least until now.” Of course, Trump had already signed the CARES Act which included $13 billion in funding for schools to reopen.
Still, Biden was clear that schools remaining closed, in perpetuity, was unacceptable. The campaign website, JoeBiden.com included the Biden-Harris Roadmap to Reopen Schools Safely. This roadmap included a 5-step plan “to support local decision-making on reopening schools safely and to help students whose learning was interrupted” along with bemoaning then-President Trump’s failure to act. Responding to the plan, the Healthy Schools Campaign concluded, “We’re encouraged by President-elect Biden’s early proposals, and we believe the investments proposed—along with other policy changes and an unwavering focus on equity—could boost the national economic recovery effort, show that our country understands the value of public schools, and create lasting change in every community.”
In December, after winning the election, Biden reiterated his promise to reopen “the majority of schools” in his first hundred days in office. In January, however, Biden officially took office and has since completely floundered. Press Secretary Jen Psaki was the first member of his fledgling administration to get stuck explaining the fine print, “His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50% — open by day 100 of his presidency. And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week. Hopefully, it’s more.”
Shortly afterwards, schools got the money Biden said was needed, a whopping $129 billion in the coronavirus relief bill passed in March, but, as we have seen, many are still not open at all and even more are stuck in hybrid purgatory. In fact, some governors are hedging on opening up again this fall, five months from now. For example, California Governor Gavin Newsom said last month that he hopes schools will be open in the fall, but refused to actually guarantee it, oddly noting “Mandates are not as often looked on as favorably as you might think.”
This is an untenable position for the party of science when public health experts almost universally agree in person learning is safe, especially months from now. “I see zero — not even like 99.9%, I mean zero — chance that public health will not dictate that schools should be open in the fall,” explained Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious disease expert at UCSF. “The vaccines we have are highly effective, and starting this week, everyone who wants a vaccine gets a vaccine. To say that there’s no guarantee schools will be open is just a really surprising statement to me. Just based on what we know about immunity, epidemiology, virology and how things going with the rollout, I’m not sure where that statement came from.”
It was one thing to be cautious last spring, summer, or even into the fall, but at this point the data is in, boatloads of it. Most private schools have been open for in person since last September, many public schools also opened at the same time, and even more have opened since. There has not been a single outbreak or superspreader event reported tied to in person education. Almost universally, the rate of infection within the school is lower than the public at large, sometimes substantially so. This has been true since March, and even liberal news organizations like Vox have published articles demanding schools re-open. For example, this piece from Benjamin P. Linas. “I’m an epidimeologist and a father. Here’s why I’m losing patience with the teacher’s unions. The evidence is clear: We can open schools safely now.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Linas was more right than he knew at the time. Now, we know why the CDC and President Biden plus blue-state governors have not forced this issue: They are conspiring with the teachers unions to sell out your kids. The New York Post broke the explosive story last week, noting that the “The powerful teachers union’s full-court press preceded the federal agency putting the brakes on a full re-opening of in-person classrooms, emails between top CDC, AFT and White House officials show.” The emails show that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy along with her top advisor and other administration officials collaborated, in secret, on school reopening guidelines issued in February, even including language from the teacher’s unions making its way into the final recommendations.
“Thank you again for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT,” gushed the American Federation of Teacher’s “senior director of health issues,” Kelly Tratner, in an email on February 1. “We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” she continued. “We believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.” Another email, read, “We are immensely grateful for your genuine desire to earn our confidence and your commitment to partnership.”
The partnership was certainly fruitful for the teacher’s union. The student’s not so much. The union positioned themselves as a “thought partner,” weighing in on key topics and even inserting their own language. For example, “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary” appeared on page 22 of the final CDC guidance. They also pushed for provisions for supposedly high risk individuals that also included a family member. As explained by the Post, “The AFT also demanded special remote work concessions for teachers ‘who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for … COVID-19,’ and that similar arrangements should extend to ‘staff who have a household member’ with similar risks. A lengthy provision for that made it into the text of the final guidance.”
Perhaps needless to say, the teacher’s union was thrilled with the final guidance from the CDC. “Today, the CDC met fear of the pandemic with facts and evidence,” they said in a press release on February 12. Amazingly, most of the media, including liberal mouthpiece Jake Tapper from CNN were much less enthused. A couple of days later, he asked Dr. Walensky point blank, “Can you point to any scientific reason for students in the United States not to return to in person classes tomorrow?”
Her reply is something to behold: “If you’re in middle school or high school we would advocate for virtual learning for that group…We really don’t want to bring community disease into the classroom. We also know that mask breaching is among the reasons that we have transmission within schools when it happens. Somewhere around 60% of students are reliably masking. That has to be universal. So we have work to do.”
Please bear in mind that this is the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supposedly a scientist responsible for American’s health and wellbeing, yet here she is literally babbling about “community disease” and “mask breaching,” as if we are ever going to get 100% of 6 year old children to properly wear a mask. This is after she claimed that the guidelines were entirely science-based and free from any politics, stating emphatically “I can assure you that this is free from political meddling.”
I’ve already said that Biden lied and students died. Now, we can add Dr. Walensky to the list. At the same time, none of this is remotely surprising. We’ve known for months now that Democrats, for whatever reason, are weak on reopening whatever the evidence. It will always be too soon, too fast, too whatever, and more money will always be required. Thus, the self-proclaimed “party of science” moniker has always been a complete and total fraud, completely at the service of special interests and their own political goals. In this case, the American Federation of Teachers forked over about $20 million to elect Democrats last year and their investment paid off.
Meanwhile, the CDC continues to claim conspiring with unions to sell out your kids is standard practice. “As part of long-standing best practices, CDC has traditionally engaged with organizations and groups that are impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency. We do so to ensure our recommendations are feasible to implement and they adequately address the safety and wellbeing of individuals the guidance is aimed to protect. These informative and helpful interactions often result in beneficial feedback that we consider in our final revisions to ensure clarity and usability.”
Yes, they’ve traditionally engaged with big donors to deny facts and evidence and consign millions of children to potentially decades of damage, all paid for by the US taxpayer. In short, you pay your local, state, and federal taxes, the CDC does the bidding of the teacher’s unions, and your kids are stuck at home. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?