School daze

Opening schools this fall should not be a partisan issue, but it is and will be.  The physical and mental welfare of our children and the well-being and fitness of our economy and communities should be the decisive factors, but will not be. Education policy is and will be most strongly influenced by the overwhelmingly left of center National Education Association and associated teacher unions. The NEA is arguably the strongest and most influential interest group in the Democratic Party (with apologies to Planned Parenthood, AARP, Trial Lawyers, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan). The Democrats have shown they will do whatever they can to damage, demean and defeat President Trump, including destroying the economy, lying to the nation about Russia, Russia, Russia, lying in the New York Times, Washington Post, on CNN and MSDNC and just generally lying in wait for any opportunity to lie.

A number of countries, including Australia, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Taiwan and Uruguay, have reopened with relative success. Each country and education system is different, but a reopening strategy cognizant of differential infection rates and using social distancing, protective personal equipment, reduced class sizes and staggered schedule strategies has been successful. It is also expensive and would require federal assistance. Is it worth the risk and expense? I think yes, because the cost of not reopening and/or largely depending on online distance instruction will be devastating to our children, our economy and our communities. Failure to reopen with live instruction will almost certainly assure Trump’s defeat in November, which is why the NEA and the Democrats will do all they can to prevent reopening, all the while lying that their position is about teacher and student safety.

Lying is such a Democratic virtue that it is possible that cognitively impaired Joe Biden will pick lying Susan Rice as his Vice-President. Rice (in)famously lied to the entire country on all the Sunday morning talk shows after the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate, claiming the murder of our Libyan ambassador was the consequence of an anti-Muslim video from an obscure American Christian pastor. UN Ambassador Rice saved President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s bacon lying to the nation that morning, and was rewarded for it by becoming President Obama’s National Security Advisor. In a March 2020 New York Times op-ed criticizing President Trump’s “xenophobic” and “miserable failure” pandemic policies, Ms. Rice telegraphed the Democrat education policy: “School closings, as disruptive and costly as they are, can be critically important in limiting community spread.”

There is no way that the economy and communities can recover if the schools are not reopened for in-person learning. Parents’ economic productivity is severely hampered by closed schools and required online assisted/pseudo homeschooling. The secondary social and equity benefits of in-person instruction cannot be replicated online, and in the case of equity, are actually damaged. The only bright spot for keeping the schools locked up is it will likely increase support for school choice. To the extent (and I believe it’s significant) that the NEA has successfully turned America’s public schools into left-wing indoctrination centers (ask to see the K-12 curriculum materials on climate change, gender identity, American History and white privilege), burning the village in order to save it has some appeal, but scorched earth is not an education or pandemic policy to unite the nation, but rather to divide it.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at jreisman@maine.edu.

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