Teachers’ Unions ‘Keep Moving Goalposts’ on Criteria for Reopening Schools

An empty classroom is seen at a closed school in Paris, Monday, March 16, 2020. France plans to close all creches, schools and universities from Monday until further notice to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Emmanuel Macron says. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild …
AP Photo/Thibault Camus

In a piece published at education site The 74 on the day of Biden’s inauguration, Mike Antonucci observed while teachers’ unions were continuing the narrative that “no one wants to reopen schools more than educators,” they “keep moving the goalposts.”

“[F]or something that they say they want more than anyone, unions seem very committed to stalling for as long as possible,” he wrote. “’Not until it’s safe’ makes a good hashtag, but what do the unions consider to be safe? That’s where things get complicated and vague.”

Standard safety precautions include masks, social distancing, air purifiers, and regular handwashing.

But, in places like Chicago, where union members have voted to defy an order to show up in their classrooms, the school district has already invested $100 million in virus-related safety precautions, including PPE, air purifiers, and additional custodial staff.

The Chicago Teachers Union tweeted a video of teachers expressing their longing for safety in schools through dance. The video received criticism from other Twitter users:

In Fairfax County, Virginia, the president of the teachers’ union said all students should receive the COVID-19 vaccine before full-time in-person learning resumes.

“The timeline and return to in-person instruction must reflect that we wait for the second dose to be effective,” Kimberly Adams said, reported the Washington Free Beacon. “Concerns also remain that students will not be vaccinated before they return to school. This will require that we maintain the hybrid model and continue social distancing, masking, and all other mitigation strategies.”

Antonucci noted that many teachers’ unions are now demanding all receive vaccines to reopen schools, “but they still have conditions and caveats.”

“Teachers unions want a seat at the table when it comes to reopening schools — but they don’t want it to be the hot seat,” he explained. “That’s why they keep moving the goalposts.”

He added:

Unions will continue to make vague or unachievable reopening demands until rescued by circumstances, such as COVID infections falling to normal influenza levels, or the death toll dropping to that of automobile accidents. In places like Columbus, where they have agreed to reopening protocols, unions will distance themselves from the actual decision to reopen, or will blame districts for failing to follow those protocols.

“Districts may overcome all obstacles to reopen schools, but they alone will bear the brunt of responsibility for what happens afterward,” Antonucci concluded.

President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain sided with teachers’ unions refusing to show up to their classrooms as school districts attempt to return to in-person instruction.

Klain dismissed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released Tuesday that concluded COVID-19 outbreaks in K-12 classrooms “have been rarely reported.”

He told CNN’s Erin Burnett teachers’ unions are refusing to return to in-person learning because of lack of funds.

“I’ll give you a word: Money,” he said. “That’s why the President of the United States sent a plan into Congress, even before he took office, to make the investments you need to make the schools safe.”

CDC cited a study of 17 rural Wisconsin schools, in which students wore masks regularly, that found the incidence of the coronavirus infection among students and staff “was lower than in the county overall (3,453 versus 5,466 per 100,000).”

“Among 191 cases identified in students and staff members, only seven (3.7%) cases, all among students, were linked to in-school spread,” the report observed.

CDC concluded:

With masking requirements and student cohorting, transmission risk within schools appeared low, suggesting that schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts in place.

“Students in very small pods, classes of about 11 or 12, distanced, in a rural area – they can go to school safely, and governors who made those investments,” Klain said. “[I]n other states, we haven’t seen those kinds of investments.”

“President Biden has sent a plan to Congress that will make sure that a majority of our schools can be open within 100 days,” he continued. “We need Congress to pass that plan so we can do the kinds of things you need to do so that the schools can be safe, so the teachers can be safe, so the students can be safe — sadly, it costs money.”

Prior to his inauguration, Biden released a $1.9 trillion plan for coronavirus relief that would funnel $170 billion to government-funded schools, with $130 billion to provide flexible reopening resources for grades K-12.

But, will that be enough for Biden to achieve his stated goal of reopening most K-12 schools within his first 100 days in office?

On Monday, he dodged a question from a reporter about whether teachers should return to in-person instruction in schools.

“Right now, the Chicago Teachers Union has refused, they have defied an order to return to in person classes because of a lack of vaccinations,” the reporter said. “Do you believe teachers should return to school now?”

“I believe we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers, and for the help that is in those schools maintaining the facilities,” Biden sidestepped:

We need new ventilation systems in those schools; we need testing for people coming in and out of the classes; we need testing for teachers as well as students; and we need the capacity, the capacity to know that, in fact, the … circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone.

However, a report released in December by the Association of Christian Schools International, showed that 90 percent of Christian schools opened the 2020-2021 academic year with in-person instruction as planned, despite the pandemic.

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