Parents across the country have been clamoring for state governments to reopen schools, yet in blue states those calls are largely being ignored, while red states are far more likely to have reopened schools. The Democratic intransigence on opening schools has not escaped Americans’ attention — both on the political right and left.
One Bay Area writer — and admitted left-wing progressive — is taking her fellow leftists and the Democrats they support to task for playing politics with kids’ lives by cowering to teachers’ unions and ignoring science in their refusal to get schools open again.
Dr. Rebecca Bodenheimer, an Oakland-based writer, posted what she called her “rant” about the politics involved in the fight over reopening schools this weekend — and she went directly after the “Democratic apathy” and the party’s ties to teachers’ unions.
Noting that experts in public health, including the CDC, have said it is safe to reopen schools and that reopening should be a priority, Bodenheimer lamented that “anyone can sit by and think this is an acceptable state of affairs for a developed country” and said it makes her “blood boil to see how little this country cares about kids.” And then she went after the specific culprits in all of this: Democratic leadership and teachers’ unions.
“The politicization of this issue is what’s really f***ed up,” she wrote.
“Schools are largely open in red states and closed in blue ones,” Bodenheimer continued, pointing to “Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker.”
The tracker — which features an “in-person index” based on weighted averages of virtual, hybrid, and in-person instruction — clearly shows that red states are far more likely to have students back in the classroom than blue states.
Bodenheimer has found herself flummoxed by the situation.
“It’s very difficult for me to understand the simplistic thinking that says: Trump said open schools, so we must keep them closed at all costs,” she said. “I have never felt so alienated from the people I usually align myself with politically. I will never understand how the left in this country has decided that advocating for putting kids first is somehow right-wing.”
She’s not the only one her in tribe noticing the left’s failure, she said. Liberal California parents like her are about ready to take out their frustration on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom:
I’m hearing from progressive parents all the time who are so infuriated about the Democratic apathy around school reopening — from politicians like Gavin Newsom, who are willing to allow their stances to be dictated by teachers’ unions — that they’re considering supporting the recall effort, maybe even switching parties.
But she reserved her harshest criticism for the unions that have ignored the science surrounding the coronavirus and schools:
[H]ere’s the thing: parents are not willing to sacrifice their kids’ wellbeing for the sake of ideology or being a good leftist. And they shouldn’t. It’s our most important job to do what’s best for our kids. And if that means calling out teachers’ unions, so be it. I won’t stay silent while unions ignore the science and the entire public health community, and all the research telling us schools aren’t drivers of transmission, that spread is much lower in schools than in the surrounding community. Last March we didn’t know any better. But now we know — and we’ve known for months. Europe opened up in the fall. Florida, Texas, all the red states opened up. Rhode Island was one of the few blue states that was committed to putting kids first. Can you remember even one major outbreak that was tied to school transmission (not a handful of cases, but an outbreak)? I can’t. And teachers aren’t at greater risk either.
Many of the parents I’m working with on this issue see themselves as progressive and have until now supported organized labor and unions (I myself went to the picket line for Oakland teachers 2 years ago), but it’s so clear to us that teachers’ unions are dead wrong on this issue and that their interests are diametrically opposed to what’s best for our kids. Your own kid might be doing ok in remote learning, but by and large, kids aren’t doing well. Mine sure isn’t. Just remember: the principles of child development haven’t just vanished because we’re in a pandemic. It’s still not good to have our kids in front of the screen for hours upon hours every day. Kids still need to learn alongside other kids and still need to play with other kids. What I’m saying is, there’s no amount of improvement of distance learning you can do that will make it be a good platform for learning.
Unions and their allies, according to Bodenheimer, need to abandon their “absurd justifications” for not reopening — “like denying there’s any learning loss associated with distance learning or suggesting parents can be adequate substitutes for teachers” — and get back to work. The teachers’ unions’ “tone-deaf and ridiculous” claims are undermining the proclaimed worth of teachers, she noted.
“If parents or anyone else could fill in so easily, why should we pay teachers more?” she asked. “Why should we value them as professionals?”