January 27, 2021

The plight of our schoolchildren right brings to mind the words of those old sages, the Rolling Stones: “Time waits for no one – and it won’t wait for me…. hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste.”

Parents know their kids need to be back in school for in-person learning. But the headlines these days are replete with stories of teachers refusing to teach students in person. In Chicago, the leadership of the 3rd largest school system in the country sent out a directive for teachers to get ready to report back for in-person learning.  What happened next? This headline says it all:

“Thousands of Chicago teachers not heading back to classrooms following union vote, will remain remote”

That’s right, the teachers union appears to think its members like working from home.

Compare that to the rationale stated by the Chicago school leadership’s letter sent to parents:

“Students in over 130 private and parochial schools and over 2,000 early learning centers across the city have been safely learning in their classrooms since the fall, and we must provide that same option to our families who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to make remote learning work for their children,” it added. “We’ve seen grades, attendance, and enrollment drop significantly for many of our students in recent months, and the impact has been felt most by our Black and Latinx students.”

This shows where the power behind keeping children from learning in school comes from. It’s the same group that delayed in-school learning this summer here in North Carolina – the teachers unions.

New studies show that the fears behind in-person learning are unfounded. Results from a joint study conducted by UNC and Duke researchers revealed COVID transmission rates in schools at a very low level, “extremely rare,” in the almost 100,000 students studied. And that “no instances of child-to-adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 were reported within schools.” The study involved a broad array of NC school districts

NC Senator Deanna Ballard responded to the study, saying “The education bureaucracy is burying its head in the sand by withholding from children their Constitutional right to a sound, basic education. They’re ignoring the mountain of evidence and pleas from objective public health observers, educators, and parents that show continued school closures are a disaster, and some children may never recover. Local school superintendents are grappling with inconsistent attendance, subpar student engagement, and lower grades for students, and overworked teachers who must tailor instruction for both virtual and in-person classes. The science and data show it is time to grant all parents the choice of full-time, in-person instruction.”

Speaking of studies, a TV segment just yesterday on CNN’s “OutFront”had host Erin Burnett asking President Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain why unions are overruling what studies are showing.

Klain responded that the teachers’ unions aren’t “overruling studies” by blocking school reopenings, and countered that “I think what you’re seeing is schools that haven’t made the investments to keep the students safe.” Klain then said, “we, as a country, should make the investment to make it safe.”

Interpret that with “union speak” and we begin to understand the drill. “We want money” seems to be the clear message.

But the studies and science are starting to stack up. Just yesterday, a new study was released by the CDC that “looked at 17 rural K-12 schools in Wisconsin and found just seven out of 191 coronavirus cases resulted from in-school transmission. Researchers noted that students and staff in these schools wore masks almost all the time. The report’s author concluded: “with proper prevention efforts . . . we can keep transmission in schools and educational settings quite low.”

In Las Vegas, the 5th largest school district in the nation, parents will have the option to return students back to school after statistics revealed “a substantial uptick in student suicides.”

In California, a group of 30 university medical professionals published an open letter in mid-January calling for the reopening of schools by February 1, saying:

“Long term school closures have a detrimental, measurable impact on children and adolescents. While school closure is challenging for all families, households which include essential workers and those with limited financial means are disproportionately impacted…. School closures have widened the achievement gap. Educational inequities have the potential to translate into a lifelong barrier and a staggering number of life years lost. Because literacy and health literacy influence health status, prolonged school closure is contributing to social isolation among children and adolescents. It is taking a heavy toll on their mental health and well-being.”

Here in North Carolina, it’s a no-brainer. The study has been done by two of our most reputable universities – UNC and Duke. The science is there.

It’s time for Governor Cooper to stop cowering under the intimidating power of the NCAE teachers union and do the common sense thing.  Allow parents the opportunity to get children back to in-person learning in their schools.