Biden’s inexcusable failure to reopen schools

Appeasing teachers unions seems more of a priority for administration than our children’s future

With a majority of students still not receiving a full-time, in-person education, it’s clear who the Biden administration truly serves, Foxx writes.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
With a majority of students still not receiving a full-time, in-person education, it’s clear who the Biden administration truly serves, Foxx writes. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 30, 2021 at 6:00am

46 percent.

When talking about the Biden administration’s first 100 days, that is the number we should be focusing on: Forty-six percent of students are receiving a full-time, in-person education. Joe Biden’s failure to deliver on the promise that schools would fully reopen by the end of April provides a window into who this president truly serves — teachers unions and liberal activists.

Gone are the days when students took precedence in education policy decisions. Democrats have endlessly preached that we must “follow the science,” but they haven’t practiced what they’ve preached in the fight to safely reopen schools. Apparently, following the science should only be applied when it is politically convenient. Right now, students are falling behind while parents make an impossible choice: go to work or supervise their child’s remote learning.

Our economy cannot regain its pre-pandemic prosperity on the backs of parents who have left the workforce and a new generation of undereducated workers. A recent survey conducted by the Financial Times found that “two out of five working mothers have withdrawn from the workforce or contemplated doing it.” Even worse, women’s labor force participation hit its lowest mark since 1988 earlier this year at 57 percent, largely due to nationwide school closures.

On top of a deteriorating workforce, Democratic elitists are ignoring students’ needs, succumbing to the will of teachers unions and holding our children’s education hostage. The United Teachers Los Angeles union demanded “Medicare for All,” defunding the police, wealth and millionaire taxes, and other radical, left-wing proposals as their conditions for reopening schools. School board leaders are distracted by their phones while parents cry out for help and then are mocked by the school board members during private meetings. 

Liberal politics are dominating the space children once occupied. The Chicago Teachers Union went so far as to tell their members not to reveal if they’ve received the vaccine to thwart school reopening plans. 

We know that viral spread of COVID-19 is minimal in schools with appropriate safety precautions, even in communities with a high disease prevalence. We know that more than 80 percent of teachers have been vaccinated. We know that only three feet of social distancing is necessary to limit transmission in schools. We know that children visited the emergency room at a 33 percent higher rate for mental health cases during peak COVID-19 months.

What we don’t know is how a year of learning loss will impact these children and our country for the rest of their lives.

So I ask, why does the Biden administration continue to drag its feet and move the goal posts? First, it claimed it was going to reopen most schools within 100 days. Then, it said schools that are open one day a week are considered ‘open.’ Then, Biden’s own CDC director stated that vaccinating teachers is not a ‘prerequisite’ for schools to reopen, a statement the White House quickly walked back. The administration also claimed that reopening schools hasn’t led to increased community spread, then reversed course saying most schools probably shouldn’t reopen due to concerns about community spread.

The Biden administration can’t get its story straight. Instead of pushing for reopening to ensure children aren’t needlessly missing out on vital learning opportunities, it is focused on pushing outrageous spending to advance a socialist agenda.

Democrats claimed that their latest round of economic stimulus would give schools the resources necessary to reopen schools. Over a month later, that has not materialized, perhaps due to their refusal to adopt Republican amendments that would have required schools receiving additional funding to reopen for in-person instruction.

The White House claims to be taking bold action, but its boldness ends where teacher union and liberal elite demands begin.

Mr. President, the lights are still off in many schools across America. Give students an ounce of the political capital that you so easily throw at your teacher union friends, and state, unequivocally, that schools can and should fully reopen immediately.

Rep. Virginia Foxx is a Republican representing North Carolina’s 5th District. She is the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee and also serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.