American Consequences - March 2021

hospital overcrowding, uncertain information about community spread, and the unknown risks that asymptomatic children with coronavirus might pose to adults. Time and again, teachers union officials cited the need for “an abundance of caution” in the face of the risks. However, an “abundance of caution” with regard to school reopenings is no longer a feasible guiding principle. One year into the pandemic, we know a great deal more about its lethality, including the salient fact that COVID poses a vanishingly small risk to the health of children. More than 95% of the tragic deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. are

of impact on who gets elected to oversee them (and with whom they also negotiate their contracts). More than 20 years ago, in an assessment of teachers unions in City Journal , author Sol Stern observed that because there are no market incentives for teachers to improve, and teachers exercise near-monopoly power over families who can’t afford private school or can’t homeschool, change is sclerotic or nonexistent: When school board representatives sit down with union officials to negotiate a labor contract, neither party is under pressure to pay attention to worker productivity or the system’s overall competitiveness: if the contract allows some teachers to be paid for hardly working at all, and others to perform incompetently without penalty, there is no real economic danger for either side. Schools continue to get money, and teachers continue to get paid, regardless of whether or not they are performing well. That might be changing... The outrageous demands made by many teachers unions during the pandemic could have repercussions for Americans’ feelings about the country’s educators and the unions that speak for them. TEACHERS UNIONS ARE IGNORING THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE At the beginning of the pandemic, teachers’ concerns about safety were legitimate expressions of fear, given the possibilities of

among people over the age of 60. Since last summer, scientists and

epidemiologists have had ample evidence that schools could be reopened safely. Schools in many countries in Europe have been successful managing the risk, and many private schools in the U.S. have done the same. In states such as Florida, which reopened its schools in the fall, studies have shown minimal infection rates caused by in- person learning. A large-scale study of schools in North Carolina by researchers at Duke University, published in Pediatrics , found a very low rate of in-school transmission of COVID. A range of experts in pediatrics and public health have repeatedly advocated for the reopening of schools, noting that the evidence is clear that it’s safe to return to classrooms even before all teachers are fully vaccinated as long as reasonable mitigation procedures are in place. In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the

American Consequences


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