Democratic governors may be suddenly willing to reopen their economies now that President Joe Biden has been safely sworn in, but it appears that the nation’s teachers unions are not yet done leveraging the crisis for their own political advantage.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, the local teachers union has demanded that teachers and students alike be vaccinated against the coronavirus before anyone can return to school.
However, as teachers receive vaccinations while claiming they are “essential workers,” they’re still refusing to do said “essential” work and continuing to delay the opening of the schools. What’s more, new data, albeit from Europe, indicates it may not even be unusually risky for them to be in the classroom in the first place.
While Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams said at a Jan. 21 school board meeting that she’d received her first vaccination dose on Jan. 14, she’s also reportedly indicated that her union doesn’t even support a return to full-time education … in the fall.
So why, then, has she been vaccinated?
And why is the union insisting that students also be vaccinated when no current vaccines have even been approved for children younger than 14?
Writing for The Washington Post, Fairfax County parent Rory Cooper argued that teachers need to make a choice: Either return to school or forsake priority vaccination.
“There is simply no common-sense explanation for vaccinating teachers ahead of other high-risk groups if they refuse to return to full-time in-person learning. The simple truth is that the Fairfax school system wants the benefits of heroism without taking a heroic action,” he wrote.
As it happens, it may not even be all that heroic for teachers to return to work at all, making the case for their doing so promptly all the stronger, particularly if they are receiving vaccinations.
Figures from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics suggest that unlike health care workers, food service workers, taxi drivers, and security guards, teachers seem to face no significantly higher risk of dying from the COVID-19 virus.
The BBC reported, based on the death rate due to coronavirus in England and Wales between early March and late December, 2020, that “teachers were not at higher risk than the average” population.
While 31 out of every 100,000 working-age males and 17 out of every 100,000 working-age females died of COVID-19, among teachers, those figures fell to just 18 out of every 100,000 males and 10 out of every 100,000 females.
Meanwhile, “care workers, security guards and people working in certain manufacturing roles died at more than three times the rate of their peers,” according to the BBC.
Now, the American and British education systems are not identical, but they’re similar enough that it’s fair to surmise that if British teachers don’t face an unusually significant risk from the virus, then neither do their American counterparts.
Yet American union teachers want to get vaccinated without even being required to show up for work.
Indeed, as Cooper noted, teachers in the U.S. who are showing up for work and who have not yet received vaccinations seem to generally be faring well.
“Schools are indeed open all across this country five days a week. Teachers without vaccines in public schools elsewhere, or private schools right here in Fairfax County, are working every day with reasonable mitigation efforts and with very little negative consequence,” he wrote.
It’s not just Fairfax teachers causing a fuss in spite of the evidence a relatively safe return to school could easily be facilitated.
In Chicago, the teachers union voted to reject the city’s reopening plan and refuse to show up for in-person work, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported this week.
In Washington state, the head of the Pasco Association of Educators went a step further than his Eastern counterparts, comparing the push to reopen schools to “white supremacy” while referring to concern over student suicide amid continued school closures as “white privilege.”
No — really:
A WA teacher’s union president says reopening schools is an example of “white supremacy,” concern over a child’s mental health or suicide risk is “white privilege,” and push to reopen schools is like rioters pushing to enter the U.S. Capitol.
— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) January 13, 2021
As the banter flies and the unions make their case, the people who seem to have been forgotten amid all this — students — are suffering profoundly.
“They have been locked out of schools for nearly a year now,” Cooper explained.
“Children with learning disabilities have had little to no support. Special-needs children were turned away from a hybrid return by the union. Kindergartners have never seen their schools. Return dates have been continually pushed back, usually the night before a return was scheduled, resulting in a few tears shed in our home (by the kids, too).
“Academically, students are struggling. The data shows that decisively. Emotionally, they’re struggling. Sadly, the data also shows that decisively, and parents are seeing it. Real harm is being caused to them, and it’s by the people meant to look out for them. And they want that harm to continue for another year.”
Those tasked with educating the young minds of our nation may certainly be considered “essential workers” if, indeed, they behave like essential workers.
They need to show up and do their essential work.
Instead, they’re trying to get paid to phone — or rather, Zoom — it in to our children’s education.
Meanwhile, they’re holding their students’ futures hostage in exchange for some added benefits or an easier life.
Our children aren’t political pawns in a union game — they’re our future.
Education, like the whole vitally important work of raising up the next generation, is simply not something you can just phone in.
Children need to be back in school — and they need to be taught there by people who are willing to be there with them, in person, when they return.
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