Public schools

White House: Schools Should 'Probably' Open in the Fall. Also: 'Maybe,' and 'It Depends.'

Amid message confusion, report shows teachers union fingerprints on the CDC's school reopening guidance.

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On Friday, when asked by NBC's Craig Melvin whether public schools should be fully open for in-person instruction this fall given the widespread availability of vaccines, President Joe Biden said, "Based on the science and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance], they should probably all be open."

When Melvin asked essentially the same question to first lady Jill Biden, who is not just the president's wife but also a card-carrying member of the National Education Association (NEA), and who met with two national teachers union presidents to talk reopening policy on Day Two of the presidency, the answer was more equivocal: "Well, I think it depends on, you know, we're following the science and what the CDC says. And so, each district is different, and so I think we have to listen to the experts and the science, and then the districts have to decide."

Zagging back toward full-throated reopening was Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who in a speech Friday said: "We can't wait to get more schools open full time. This spring. Every day we wait is another day of potential lost instructional time….Every day that passes is a lost opportunity."

And in case the overall message wasn't muddled enough, White House Senior Adviser Anita Dunn on Sunday clarified to CNN's Jake Tapper that the president said "'probably,' he did not say 'absolutely,'" adding: "It's an unpredictable virus. And it is a virus that has—you know, it mutates. So we can't look in a crystal ball and say what September looks like."

Yet private schools, and the preponderance of public schools in Republican-governed polities, do know what September will look like in their buildings—full of kids, every day.

In one important respect, the White House's stammering on this issue does not matter overmuch. As illustrated by this burbio graphic showing the state-by-state percentages of public schools still teaching all-remote or hybrid, reopening is determined locally, with the wide variances at the poles clustered largely along partisan lines.

On the other hand, aside from the so-far ineffectual bully pulpit, there are two key ways that Washington could theoretically influence elementary and secondary reopening in the hinterlands: by attaching conditions to federal outlays, and by issuing safety guidelines for the operation of schools.

The conditions on federal aid do in fact exist. Yes, $81 billion of the initial $122 billion school component of the American Rescue Plan has already scooted out the door, along with an additional $12 billion for COVID testing. But to access the remaining $41 billion this summer, states and school districts have to convince the Department of Education that they have credible plans to "reopen schools" and maintain "continuous in-person school operation." There are strings attached.

What about the CDC guidelines? Well, famously, they have been a "stakeholder"-driven mess, careening from a February 12 guidance that if taken seriously would have kept more than 90 percent of schools at least partially closed in perpetuity, to—after near-universal backlash from scientists—a more reasonable (but still murky) recommendation that schools need not adhere to a social distancing requirement of an average of 6 feet.

The CDC's recommendations never did matter much in defiantly open states such as Florida, and also after the February botching in some blue states like Massachusetts as well. But they exert the most influence where teachers unions hold the biggest sway.

The national unions, who shower 95 percent of their political spending onto the Democratic Party, spent months withholding their final reopening terms until the new union-friendly Democratic administration took over in Washington. They exulted at that first February 12 guidance, then spat fire at the backpedal five weeks later.

A New York Post report over the past weekend, based on Freedom of Information Act requests from the conservative Americans for Public Trust, produced a paper trail detailing what had been obvious since February: The unions had their fingerprints all over that initial CDC guidance.

In at least two instances, language "suggestions" offered by the union were adopted nearly verbatim into the final text of the CDC document.

With the CDC preparing to write that schools could provide in-person instruction regardless of community spread of the virus, [American Federation of Teachers official Kelly] Trautner argued for the inclusion of a line reading "In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary." That language appeared on page 22 of the final CDC guidance.

The AFT also demanded special remote work concessions for teachers "who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for … COVID-19," and that similar arrangements should extend to "staff who have a household member" with similar risks. A lengthy provision for that made it into the text of the final guidance.…

Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco who has written extensively on coronavirus, called the CDC-AFT emails "very, very troubling,"

"What seems strange to me here is there would be this very intimate back and forth including phone calls where this political group gets to help formulate scientific guidance for our major public health organization in the United State," Gandhi told The Post. "This is not how science-based guidelines should work or be put together."

With Monday's news that the Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of approving the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, the slow-walking unions are running out of excuses for wringing the last drops of ransom from the governments they still influence. Many exhausted public school parents will likely just collapse with gratitude as the last holdout districts reopen (my kindergartener's Brooklyn school only switched to full-time this very morning). But they will also do so while making plans for September. Increasingly, further away from the intersection of government and education.

NEXT: When Fighting 'Misinformation' Is Really Fighting Free Speech

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  1. The unions had their fingerprints all over that initial CDC guidance.

    Somebody’s hand has to be up the addlepated president’s ass working his mouth. But no mean tweets means it’s all good.

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  2. The teachers union members prefer to stay at home and get a paycheck instead of working their seasonal job. And they helped put Biden in office so signs point to a lot of schools remaining closed.

    1. Welch helped put Biden in office, so now his job is to point the finger at someone largely unaccountable.

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  3. The CDC and FDA are political, bureaucratic, and rely on patronage rather than science. This has been known for a long time.

    1. ‘Tis the nature of the beast.

  4. With Monday’s news that the Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of approving the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, the slow-walking unions are running out of excuses for wringing the last drops of ransom from the governments they still influence.

    “Until the FDA approval is truly solid, that is, goes beyond so-called Emergency Use Authorization, our union cannot countenance schemes that put our members at risk. We cannot teach if we are dead.”

    1. A lot of them don’t teach so well when they’re alive either.

      1. At least when they die they can’t brainwash the kids about global warming, critical race theory , or socialism. F the teachers Union. Not so much the teachers.

  5. “this very intimate back and forth”

    Ohh, Professor Gandhi!

  6. One example of outside influence on the CDC. Wanna bet dozens more are discovered in the near future?

  7. Look at that- Reason has their panties in a bunch again because they don’t get their way immediately when the next school year is months out.

    Go cry some more.

    1. Look at that – shitlunches supports the teachers unions grifting the American people.

    2. Look at that – TED-addled lefty asshole whines that teachers might have to show up for woprk!
      Go fuck off and die. Your dog will piss on your grave.

      1. His 50 cats will feast on his corpse once the food runs out.

  8. What are the chances that schools that didn’t open for one year are going to make every student repeat whatever grade level they missed? That would be popular with the unions but not with students and parents. Some of the schools around here in suburban Philly have been going four or five days “in person” without even one incident of having to close down due to a Chicom-19 exposure.

    1. suburban Philly

      Where parents expect their kids to have an education, and may even have more influence over their schools.

      1. I loved my suburban Philly public school but I hear they’re changing the name of the mascot because woke feelz

        1. Better quit calling it “Filly”, BTW. I’ll let you off with a warning this time, SEXIST!!

        2. My school’s mascot was a Scottish Tartan. So basically a guy in a dress. We’re still good.

    2. Zero, for two reasons. First, there would be a year with no graduating class, and if done in enough districts, would absolutely devastate colleges. Second, it would result in one mega class cohort as this year’s kindergarteners are combined with next year’s class. This would have a serious impact on primary secondary, and higher education for the next 16 years. The idea is a total non-starter.

    3. Zero! Education is not really the point. Union fees are the point.

  9. Sequestration now, sequestration tomorrow, sequestration forever!

    1. SEND IN THE 101ST !!!

  10. If Reason writers weren’t curled up in a ball sobbing about mean tweets they might have thought about this before the election.

    1. They are not complete idiots.

      Just completely dishonest.

    2. Is that the only thing they were concerned about or was Dear Leader like rainbow kisses and unicorn farts?

    3. It’s so sad to see how libertarians will accept just about any Dear Leader from the GOP that comes along

      1. Given that Democrats in the 21st century have become the party of totalitarian social and economic engineering, is that any surprise?

      2. What’s more sad is commie assholes still supporting the system which killed 100,000,000 innocent people.

      3. Fact check. NOT libertarians.

  11. And so, each district is different, and so I think we have to listen to the experts and the science, and then the districts have to decide.

    Nice to see Dr. Jill has joined the Libertarian Party! “We can tell you what the science and the experts say, but then we’ll leave it up to you what you want to do with that information.” Or do you think, like with the “My Body, My Choice” sloganeers, that she means only in this one precise limited case that people should be free to make up their own minds?

    1. No, she’s just avoiding the issue and hiding their real agenda, for now.

      1. and then the districts have to decide
        “And the answer shall be, ‘No!'”

  12. Jill Biden is proof that the Ed.D is the finger painting of doctoral degrees.

    1. thats what theyre reduced to when their minds go. She and Joe Drool Bucket…finger painting and Jello..

    2. Check out her dissertation sometime when you have a few minutes to kill.

      1. Wow – “A dissertation/executive position paper”

        So from what I can tell from a cursory scan, no actual research.

        Link to (ahem) dissertation

    3. It is the classic fallacy of our time that a moron run through a university and decorated with a Ph.D. will thereby cease to be a moron.

      …H. L. Mencken

  13. >>Amid message confusion

    nobody is confused. if you are confused, it is you.

  14. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-more-resilient-america-beat-a-midcentury-pandemic-11619794711

    Weve been here before. This is organized Media paranoia.

    The 24- 7 mass psychotic lock step Leftist –
    Communist media didnt exist here in 1957

  15. “Based on the science and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance], they should probably all be open.”

    So this clearly states that “the science”, and “the CDC” are two distinct things. And “the science” doesn’t “probably” say, it clearly says. World wide and US real world experiments all show the damn teachers are a bunch of insurrectionists trying to take over from the relative legislatures.

    1. Theyre lying about CDC guidance.

      Its not fromCDC.

      CDC published research says masks dont work.

      These lies are spread by POLITICAL APPOINTEES RUNNING CDC.

      Fauci is not acting as a scientist. Hes a political operative.

      1. >>CDC published research says masks dont work.

        this.

        >>Fauci is not acting as a scientist. Hes a political operative.

        true since the 1980s.

      2. Do you have a citation for this “published research” that says “masks don’t work”? I suppose health care workers can stop wearing them then.

        1. It’s probably more accurate to say that masks have not been shown to be particularly effective in controlling respiratory viral infections in the real world. And the CDC has published a number of articles and reviews which say just that. I don’t think anyone is claiming that masks don’t stop some of what comes out of your mouth when you cough or that there aren’t certain situations where their use may be appropriate.

          1. Maybe at some point people will begin to remember that guidance for hospitals is necessarily more stringent than what is needed/practical for the general public.

            Also, the quality of the mask counts. Maybe if there was a distribution of properly fitted N95s and enforcement of their proper use then all the haranguing over masks would make some sense.

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  17. Did I miss the Reason article about how Trump’s political appointees got the CDC to change language in reports to match what the White House wanted to say? Ah, it’s only bad when the liberals do it.

    1. >>>it’s only bad when the liberals do it

      you must be new here.

    2. There are legitimate reasons for language changes, and then there are political reasons for language changes. At least Trump let you use pronouns!

    3. Well, it is an executive agency. It’s not completely illegitimate for the executive to have some input.

  18. White House: Schools Should ‘Probably’ Open in the Fall. Also: ‘Maybe,’ and ‘It Depends When The Biden’s Get The Teachers Talking Points.

    1. When I think of Joe Biden, I automatically think of “Depends”.

  19. Remember the good old days when liberals were complaining that Trump hadn’t issued any federal guidelines on the pandemic?

  20. Willingly sending our children to government schools is child abuse.

    Government schools should stay closed. At best they are heavily subsidized and mediocre daycare for the children of deadbeat parents, and at worst:

    “’Parent choice’ proceeds from the belief that the purpose of education is to provide individual students with an education. In fact, educating the individual is but a means to the true end of education, which is to create a viable social order to which individuals contribute and by which they are sustained. ‘Family choice’ is, therefore, basically selfish and anti-social in that it focuses on the ‘wants’ of a single family rather than the ‘needs’ of society.”
    ~ Association of California School Administrators

    Fire the teachers and administrators. Sell most of the schools and convert a few to homeless shelters. School districts need be nothing more than a small office to issue vouchers and a small studio to produce remote classes as a stop gap for students transitioning to private schools.

  21. Day by day, we get confused on what to do

  22. Schools won’t open until the unions say it’s OK to do so. Let’s not kid ourselves who’s running the show here.

  23. “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.” 

    You guys are just making shit up to complain about.

  24. You guys should think old days when liberals were complaining that Trump hadn’t issued any federal guidelines on the pandemic , https://wapexclusive.com/jehovah-overdo/

  25. Jill biden is a doctor like I’m a gynecologist. Sure, I love pussy but no one thinks I can fix a stinky one.

    The two of them are idiots. Straight out bone thug idiots.

    Dear ms. biden…just fucking shut up. You too joe

    We are so fucked

  26. the FDA approval is truly solid, that is, goes beyond so-called Emergency Use Authorization, our union cannot countenance schemes that put our members at risk. We
    https://wapexclusive.com ,cannot teach if we are dead.”

  27. All the economic ruin blamed on the virus is misdirection based on the assumption that the rulers forced only what the M.D.s advised. But who allows the initiation of violence, threats thereof, i.e., edicts? The populace. And those who resist, who think for themselves, who ask for clarification that authority cannot give? They are ignored, or worse, cancelled. The consensus is manufactured by authority (MSM), enforced by authority, for authority. Authority loves to use its sovereignty over the populace to see how far the populace can be pushed, how much crap they will submit to before they reach their breaking point, and how that will be expressed. Some do it by riots. Some by suicide. Some by open defiance. Are they finally finding their dignity, their self-respect, their confidence, their bravery? Do they realize the pandemic was a Pan-hoax? Do they realize that coercive govt. is not moral or practical? Do they want to reclaim their sovereignty and self-govern? How long will it take to make the American Dream manifest?

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