As early as last December, Joe Biden was promising to reopen schools his first 100 days in office. This was a very popular idea among parents who were nearly desperate to keep their children from falling further behind.
But that promise was made before the teachers’ union moved the goalposts — again — and decided that schools shouldn’t open until teachers and their union members were vaccinated.
The teachers broke fundraising records to get Biden elected and demanded fealty. The Biden administration — like mayors across the country — gave it.
“His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools—so more than 50 percent—open by day 100 of his presidency, and that means some teaching in classrooms,” press secretary Psaki said. “Teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100.”
That’s a far cry from “opening” the schools to in-person instruction. Here’s what was in the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness document released in January.
“The United States is committed to ensuring that students and educators are able to resume safe, in-person learning as quickly as possible, with the goal of getting a majority of K-8 schools safely open in 100 days,” the document reads.
I don’t see anything about “one day a week” in-person instruction there. Indeed, the media had to scramble to cover the president’s butt. USA Today headlined their piece, “White House clarifies Biden’s goal to reopen schools.” Some “clarification.”
But Biden was forced to “clarify” his goal because the teachers are refusing to return to work despite all evidence that it can be done safely.
The White House distanced itself from CDC director Rochelle Walensky last week after she said that vaccinating teachers is not required to safely reopen schools for face-to-face learning. Psaki claimed Walensky had spoken “in her personal capacity” and insisted the White House wait for further guidance.
While many of the country’s largest teachers’ unions backed Biden during his 2020 presidential run—and teachers broke donation records to support the president—they have led the resistance to return to the classroom. Many unions have demanded that all teachers receive the vaccine before teaching students in person and have claimed without evidence that returning to the classroom is unsafe. An American Academy of Pediatrics study from January found that transmission of the virus in schools is “extremely rare.”
For the teachers, that’s not good enough. They want an ironclad guarantee that none of their members — or any family members — will get sick.
If this were a question of health, the kids would have been back in class already. This is about power and who wields it. The unions are flexing their muscles, knowing they have the politicians over a barrel and will press their advantage to the absolute limit. And the politicians will have no choice but to cave to their demands.
President Reagan told the air traffic controllers where they could stick it when they went on strike threatening to bring chaos to the skies. The union believed they had the upper hand and were badly outguessed when Reagan stood up to them and broke their union and fired them. Forty years later, there have been no other controller strikes.
It won’t happen with the teachers, of course, They’re too well-connected politically to break them. But setting a date certain for them to return to class and then firing those who don’t comply would be a good start toward reestablishing a balanced power relationship between the schools and the unions.