Like the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reopening of America’s schools has become political. And, right on brand, the Democrats are wrong to delay it.
After Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had the audacity to suggest “kids have got to get back to school,” Rep. Ayanna Presley responded, “I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant, let alone my child.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also took turns blasting DeVos’ proposal.
But hers is the only reasonable position to take. School-age children have been cooped up at home for too long. No one thinks they’re really learning. No one thinks it benefits their mental, physical or emotional well-being — or that of their parents. And no one thinks the economy can truly get started again without reopened schools.
DeVos’ position is also on the side of science. Let’s be clear: The COVID-19 pandemic poses a risk to us all. To keep calm and carry on doesn’t eliminate risk — life always presents risk, no matter how much we try to mitigate it. However, school-age children are the least vulnerable members of American society, in terms of contracting and spreading the coronavirus to others. According to a recent Dutch study, the virus is primarily being spread between adults and from adult family members to children — not the other way around.
It’s no wonder that DeVos’ position was backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 67,000 U.S. pediatricians. According to the AAP’s guidance, “All policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
Why are the Democrats ignoring them? Why are they putting politics ahead of our children, parental sanity and the entire economy?
Enough is enough. Distance learning at home simply does not work. That’s not what our teachers were trained to do, that’s not how our children have been trained to learn and that’s not what parents are trained to handle at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive economic disruption, which is only exacerbated by the overprotective sheltering of children. Parents simply cannot work at optimum levels if they don’t have access to the daily childcare that schools offer.
Yet Democrats are doing everything in their power to keep us locked up. Now is the time to fight back and go even further, making a positive, transformative change in American education.
The federal government should seize this opportunity to put power back into the hands of parents, not teachers union officials (who have gone full-woke by demanding wild policy changes unrelated to education) and school board administrators — all of whom continue to be paid. As Secretary DeVos recently said, “American investment in education is a promise to students and their families.” If schools refuse to reopen, they are not keeping that promise. The federal government must expressly deny federal funds to schools that don’t reopen.
If schools are denied funding, those funds can then be allocated directly to parents in the form of school voucher credits. That way, parents can place their children in the school environments they choose, not those dictated by the same local officials and union leaders who have rotted the system to the core. With liberal brainwashing of school-age children already on the rise, school choice is the only acceptable outcome. It will cut out untrustworthy schools and states, which are shirking their duty to educate our children.
Some parents may want their children to remain in government-run schools. Some will go parochial or private. Others will support new models of education. The point is that parents will finally have the choice.
Let’s even take it a step further: Any school system that doesn’t also offer partial vouchers to parents who choose to leave — even if schools reopen — should be denied federal funding as well, with those funds further distributed to parents. All educational tuition payments should also be made 100 percent tax deductible. This would incentivize creativity in education and improve educational outcomes — more competition will lead to more quality. Like today’s improved traffic conditions, reducing the headcount in overcrowded schools will also increase quality for those parents who still prefer the public school promise.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been awful for Americans, made worse by Democratic policy choices — from endless lockdowns to the trampling of civil rights to the enabling of violent rioting. But here’s the silver lining: We can unleash an economic explosion in the education industry, led by the Trump administration.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to wrest power away from unaccountable teachers unions and administrative bureaucrats, putting power back into the hands of parents and their children. Let’s start by reopening schools this fall.
Dan Backer (@DanBackerEsq) is a veteran campaign counsel, having served more than 100 candidates, PACs, and political organizations. He is founding attorney of political.law, a campaign finance and political law firm in Alexandria, Virginia.