President Joe Biden has promised — repeatedly — to “follow the science.” But now that he’s in office, some are concerned he’s instead following the teachers’ unions whose members are refusing to return to the classroom, effectively holding children hostage for more money.
Kids across the country have been languishing under lockdowns for nearly a year, struggling to keep up with their studies as school districts from coast-to-coast have muddled through virtual education alternatives that are hardly acceptable substitutes for in-person instruction.
Biden has signed an executive order vowing to reopen schools across the U.S. within his first 100 days in the Oval Office. And since his first day, the Democratic president has claimed he and his advisers will rely on “science and truth.”
Science, though, doesn’t appear to be Biden’s guiding light when it comes to schools.
Here are the facts:
- An analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there is “scant transmission” of COVID-19 in classrooms
- A Duke University/University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill study found COVID-19 transmission from kids to adults to be “extremely rare” in schools
- A Norwegian study comparing different occupations found teachers “had no or only a moderately increased odds of [contracting] COVID-19”
- Data released last fall from Spain found schools being open for in-person instruction “makes absolutely no difference” for case numbers
- A survey from Tulane University found that, particularly in areas where COVID-related hospitalizations are already down, reopening schools causes no spikes, and, in some cases, in-person instruction has led to decreases in hospitalizations
- A study from the University of Washington Center for Education Data & Research found in-person learning doesn’t impact community spread when infection rates aren’t high
- The American Academy of Pediatrics said last June children need to be “physically present” in the classroom, arguing the “social isolation” of distance learning would have devastating effects
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said the government’s default position should be “to keep the children in school or to get them back in school”
Biden’s own CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told reporters during a White House briefing on COVID-19 last week that “schools can safely reopen,” adding that safely reopening “does not” mean all teachers “need to be vaccinated.”
“Vaccinations for teachers,” she said, ”is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.”
But instead of following the science, the Biden administration soon distanced itself from the comments made by its own medical expert.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki walked back Walensky’s advice, saying her comments — made in her capacity as CDC director during a press conference held in the White House — were not “official.”
In addition to all the data suggesting it’s safe to reopen schools, so long as health protocols like mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing are followed, it’s becoming increasingly clear how devastating keeping them closed has been for children around the country.
Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said last summer the threat of suicides and drug overdoses among America’s youth is a “far greater” concern than COVID-19.
It appears, unfortunately, he was right.
In December, an elementary school student in Woodbridge, California, took his own life during a Zoom class. And The New York Times reported last month 18 children committed suicide in the nine months the Clark County School District in Nevada — the fifth-largest in the country — was closed for in-person learning.
A review of 80 studies by researchers from the U.K. determined social isolation increases the risk of depression and anxiety in children, particularly among those with special educational needs.
Data released late last year by the CDC found that one-quarter of young adults in the U.S. have thought about suicide since the pandemic — and its accompanying restrictions — began. And 25.5% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 seriously considered taking their own lives.
Despite all this information, though, Biden is kowtowing to unions.
The president’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, recently dismissed concerns from CNN anchor Erin Burnett, who said it appears teachers’ unions around the country are rejecting the science. He said the only way to get schools reopened is for Congress to pour more money into school districts. In December, it’s worth noting, public schools received an additional $57 billion to be used to make their facilities safer against COVID-19 transmission.
Biden, for his part, has dodged questions about his vow to reopen schools within his first 100 days in office. Last month, when asked whether he supports reopening classrooms despite the pushback from unions, the president said: “I believe we should make school classrooms safe.”
Biden can’t have it both ways: He’s either going to have to follow the science and stand up to unions or just ditch the science schtick.