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The COVID school shutdown is a disaster for America’s schoolchildren, especially the young and the poor. America’s undereducated students have had a permanent hole blasted into their educational experience, creating a gap that will never be filled.
It didn’t have to be. It didn’t happen because of the virus or even our perverse reaction to it. The educational shutdown isn’t necessary for the health of our children. It is the result of the selfish intransigence of the teachers’ unions and Democrats ceaselessly searching for ways to make Trump look bad.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the CDC, advises against the school closure. They note that shutting down schools “places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.” Children’s health overall, including COVID, is improved by being in school.
High schools are experiencing more deaths above baseline from suicide and drug overdose than from COVID. Of 45 million children in pre-K through middle school, 28 have perished from COVID. More than 12,500 children have died altogether this year, 99.7% of them from something other than COVID.
Yet the teachers’ unions insist that they are facing grave peril and are threatening strikes, even though many teachers are eager to resume their life’s work. Some unions insist on a charter school moratorium and defunding the police as the price for doing their job. Needless to say, they fully expect to be paid for not working.
Their claim that asymptomatic children can pass the virus on to adults fails to withstand scrutiny. At least 10 European countries already re-opened their schools last spring and have had a chance to evaluate the results. Every one of them plans to start the fall school year on time.
Denmark last spring practiced strict prevention measures when schools reopened. Case and mortality rates continued to decline, leading their health director to conclude that “you cannot see any negative effects from the reopening of schools.”
On the other hand, the Netherlands imposed neither distancing nor mask requirements when they reopened and COVID deaths declined there as well. Their health authorities confirmed “the impression that children do not play a significant role in the transmission of the disease.”
Sweden remarkably kept its schools and businesses open, without strict distancing and mask requirements. Even so, health authorities concluded, “there was no increased risk for teachers”. Moreover, a national study in Iceland “found not a single instance of a child infecting parents.”
Demonstrably, school shutdowns have enormous costs and negligible benefits. But the teachers’ unions, whether for political reasons, sincere hysteria over the virus or simple laziness, refuse to budge. Schools will only open when the virus is “fully controlled”, whatever that means.
Meanwhile, schools too unhealthy for students to attend are converted to soup kitchens serving illegals in some cases and paid daycare centers in Arizona. But this time, not all parents are taking it sitting down.
With schools unwilling to teach, parents are creatively moving on without them. It is occurring to some of them that many district schools were doing more indoctrinating and less educating anyway and that more adaptive, competitive models may be the long-term answer.
This could be the opportunity for real school reform. Parents are embracing such modalities as homeschooling, which has soared in popularity. Parents who discover that available curricula are in many cases superior to those used in district schools will likely be inclined to stick with them when possible.
Other parents are forming “pods”, small groups of children taught at home by parents and/or a paid tutor. Charter schools, private schools, and other alternatives to recalcitrant district schools are also gaining traction.
The legislature should support these efforts through expanded Educational Savings Accounts, which put education dollars in the hands of parents to use according to their discretion, but are limited at this time to only certain students. They should also assure the independence of charter schools from the union-inspired rules.
The school shutdown, like the economic shutdown, was a gigantic bet placed with no evidence it would work. It hasn’t.
But the kids shouldn’t be collateral damage for our panic and gullibility. They need to go to school.Published in