There are plenty of issues for liberals and conservatives to fight over. Children and schools should not be one of them. The Left has been saying for years— “follow the science.” But apparently that only applies to climate change and not children, as the science and data on transmission of Covid-19 in children suggest K-12 schools should be open for in-person teaching and learning this fall, as is already the case in many other countries.
So, what does the data say? Countries report statistics differently, but here’s a sampling. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30 children under 15 have died of Covid-19 in the U.S., a number nearly on par with yearly chicken pox deaths in children. CTV News compiled data from several countries in a July 14th story entitled “How Deadly is Covid-19 for Children?” In it the Public Health Agency in Canada reported 7,888 Covid-19 cases in those under age 20. Deaths? One. Further, “A study of 100 children who contracted the novel coronavirus in Italy found that none of them died, even though more than 14% of all known COVID-19 cases in the country have been fatal.”
It is for the above reasons and the known high tolerance of the disease and low transmission rates in children that health experts across the spectrum and The American Academy of Pediatricians have argued for reopening schools for in-person classes this fall. Indeed, on July 13th NBC Nightly News, five prominent pediatricians were asked if they would send their own kids to school this fall. All five said yes.
Armed with opinions and advice like that were cause for President Trump and Secretary of Education (DeVos) to begin making the case for full school reopenings this fall. Sadly, it appears that the Administration’s endorsement in and of itself has been galvanizing powerful forces on The Left to now resist. The media mob is also beginning to echo The Left’s hardening stance on not reopening schools.
Teachers unions are a powerful voice in the Democrat party, including The National Education Association and the more militant American Federation of Teachers, led for decades by Randi Weingarten. How well these groups represent the views of rank and file teachers has always been unclear. And, of course, these unions are rarely if ever the least bit interested in what parents think about education issues.
Consider this week’s CNBC/Change Research survey. In it 74% of respondents selected day care and K-12 schools first among a list of entities that government should work hardest to reopen safely. Other choices included beaches, airlines, sports venues, retail stores, and bars. Education also surpassed all other choices among likely voters surveyed in six key states likely to determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. These were Michigan, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Of course, polls also show a lot of angst among parents around safety. It is with safety in mind that many districts are getting creative with how they will deliver in person education this fall, from smaller class sizes to staggered times, to certain days in class and others out for virtual learning for their populations.
Clearly the time has come to classify teachers as essential workers, just as with grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and front line health care workers. We must never forget that the lowest income kids need strong in-person teaching the most, lest they be relegated to a future of only low wage work. Laptops for all and separate “home offices” for multiple kids to work virtually are often impossible for the poorest families, even as many liberal elites say “just teach and learn virtually.”
Lastly, voices on the left should very carefully contemplate the numerous public health consequences of not reopening schools this fall before blindly stating that children’s health is best served by staying home.