Public schools

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of 'School Hesitancy'

Shocker: When you keep schools closed, lie about them being death mills, then call opening advocates white supremacists, parents may not be in a hurry to send their kids back to part-time Zoom-in-a-room.


As the 2020-21 school year wheezes toward expiration, a foul new public policy term has arisen to meet our fallen moment.

"Experts have coined the term 'school hesitancy' to describe the remarkably durable resistance to a return to traditional learning," The New York Times reported over the weekend. "More than [one-]third of fourth- and eighth-graders, and an even larger group of high school students," are still learning remote-only, the paper found. "A majority of Black, Hispanic and Asian-American students remain out of school."

Teachers unions and their apologists are fond of portraying this reluctance as largely an exercise of choice by minority parents who have understandable mistrust of their system's dedication to safety.

"The real issue now is how are we going to get parents to trust that schools are safe so that they send their kids back to in-person," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted last week.

"NYC schools are open," New York Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro tweeted inaccurately last week, attempting to fact-check an Andrew Yang campaign advertisement. "The issue [is] that ~600K parents have decided to keep their kids learning from home. Getting those parents back is the actual challenge here."

As Weingarten and Shapiro know full well (and are reminded of every time they post misleading stuff like this), the decision to keep kids home is not an expressed preference between the binary choices of fully remote and fully in-person instruction. My 7th grader attends school twice a week, and almost never on those days has a live teacher each period. (The kids have been sent outside to "play on their phones" more times than I can remember.) Other middle schoolers and high schoolers, after spending most of the year distance learning, were offered the non-enticing prospect of spending the waning months of a wasted school year going half-time into a classroom where they could all receive instruction by a remote teacher via Zoom.

This unattractive hybrid model is the inevitable result of granting huge swaths of teachers—28 percent in New York City—medical exemptions to work remotely through the end of the school year, regardless of proximity to vaccines. (New York, after having put teachers in front of the line, is now dangling subway passes and entertainment tickets to lure vaccination laggards, and offering shots to nonresidents.)

The more teachers unions exert power over a school district and local political machine, the more that "open" schools equal "Zoom-in-a-room," the more parents opt out, the more teachers unions attribute the high opt-out numbers to parental preference. It's a vicious, intelligence-insulting cycle, one that could be significantly broken by fully reopening schools.

"Whether one's school has reopened," a detailed American Enterprise Institute study by Vladimir Kogan found last month, "turns out to be the single best predictor of whether parents are willing to send their children back." Not the rate or trajectory of COVID-19 impact, not the level of historical distrust between communities and schools, but whether local leadership has said unambiguously that it's safe to come back. "Controlling for local school reopening status greatly attenuates the racial gaps in the observed preferences for online learning," Kogan wrote.

Conclusion? "Protracted school closures have created a self-reinforcing policy feedback loop, reducing support for resuming in-person learning. Since these closures have been concentrated in large urban school districts, this may have directly contributed to racial disparities in support for reopening schools."

Educators in slowly reopening districts could react to such findings by hurrying to open doors and spread the good news that schools are among the safest places for people to be. (The seven-day positivity rate among randomly tested New York City schools at the moment is 0.26 percent, or, 1 out of every 380 people.) Instead of that, 14 months after schools first closed, some in leadership positions continue to spread the dangerous fiction that schools are disease-vector deathtraps being pushed to reopen by racists.

On May 1, the Keep NYC Schools Open coalition held a rally in East Harlem attended by mayoral candidates Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia. They were greeted by a counter-protest, featuring teachers wearing sashes that read, "We will not die for DOE" (the latter meaning Department of Education).

It's bad enough that people who have had access to COVID vaccines for several months, and who ostensibly teach subjects like math and science, would spread the pernicious myth that public school buildings are incubators of death. (The accumulated pandemic body count of kids under 18 is still under 300.)

Worse still, the counter-demonstration was organized in part by neuroscientist Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, who is president of her local Community Education Council (CEC). In New York, CECs are advisory bodies that have real decision-making power at the school district level.

And here is what Salas-Ramirez had to say about the school-opening rally she was protesting: "What we saw at the field on Saturday is white supremacy at its best…. These folks are coming into the neighborhood who are not from the neighborhood; they don't have to worry about going into the hospital and having ICE come pick them up."

This kind of poisonous rhetoric, while cuckoo-bananas on its face, is nonetheless routine in reopening debates, and not just in New York. Gee, I wonder what message Harlem public school parents glean from teachers who warn about corpses and education leaders who call reopening racist?

There will come a day when these fights will look like science fiction, even in big Democratic-controlled cities. But that day will probably not come this September. As the school-reopening tracker Burbio put it Sunday:

There are concrete announcements about traditional learning next Fall. There are vague or even what sound like conflicting approaches to virtual learning and no announced plans around the mechanics of delivery. Large percentages of students are opting out of in-person. Learning plans offered across schools vary widely, often with a pronounced demographic or economic skew, and do not closely resemble what a pre-Covid 19 school day would look like. Safety precautions in place in the district appear to exceed the CDC guidelines in an effort to get stakeholders comfortable with the classroom experience. In some cases students are supervised but there are no teachers in the classroom. While there is momentum to bring students into the classroom, all these factors suggest there are considerable obstacles that have not been addressed.

So what will parents do? Increasingly, they will choose non-public options. Hesitancy may have less to do with schooling, and more to do with who is providing it.

NEXT: He Was Executed for Murder. New DNA Evidence Implicates Someone Else.

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  1. The sign that says “show us the metrics that prove we are working less effectively…”

    Well you probably aren’t, because as public sector teachers union shill you weren’t doing dick to begin with. So by definition you can’t be less effective

    1. A percentage of zero is zero.

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    2. The elephant in the room that nobody wants to discuss is that many urban minority districts have a 10-30% minority attendance via remote, but everyone can ignore this so long as there are no optics like there would be with open schools. They’ve completely lost control of the situation and predictably the parents either have no control or don’t care, but failure will never be admitted much less fixed.

      Keeping the schools closed sweeps this problem out of sight. A lot of kids will be socially promoted to the next grade this year and the cumulative effect of this nonsense will only start to be seen a few years down the road, and then attributed to something else.

      1. I will second this. Attendance at my wife’s school was horrible before. Now it’s down to 1-3 people showing out of each class of 20. The remote attendance is a joke.

        What I don’t get is the white supremacy angle. It’s transparently clear that the poorest, inner city kids with working parents are the worst hit by remote learning. Kids with a suburban stay-at-home mom who has a masters are probably doing better than the old way. Kids with no one at home to support them, no teachers to give one-on-one instruction or decent role models, and near-infinite free time for temptation. The old phrase “idle hands lead to mischief” is appropriate. Staying at home definitely fails the disparate impact basis for determining if something is racist.

        And I know we are supposed to be libertarian here, but please stop pretending that public schools do nothing. They do a lot, especially for the lowest and poorest of students who need them most.

        1. Also some, probably most kids really want to go back to school and hate remote zoom school.

          I think a lot of this from teachers has nothing to do with Covid.

    3. “Show me that I’m not doing my job and I’ll come back to work.”
      “Me standing out here with this sign proves I’m giving 110%.”
      “There are actual private remote-teaching jobs but I want this one.”

    4. I’m amazed that with the Blue states budget deficits, we don’t have armies of Truant Officers with battering rams fining these negligent parents for keeping their kids out of school!

  2. Is it just me or does anyone else find the “My life is not a sacrifice” sign ironically humorous?

    1. Shitty high school Emo band lyric.

    2. “My Life is not a Sacrifice”. Interesting sign given that the fundamental principle of Collectivism (Socialism) is sacrifice to the group.

    3. Well, California just approved a new ethnic studies curriculum involving worship of Aztec gods….

    4. To me, the other one is far more ironic. Doubly so if she teaches statistics.

      Imagine going in to ask for a raise or time off and having no clue how effective you are as an employee.

  3. Show me metrics that prove school is more dangerous for children than crossing the street.

    1. Yeah, that sign shows a clear lack of critical thinking skills. About what you’d expect for a public school teacher.

    2. Well, when children are crossing the street, they’re usually exercising SOME part of their brains. When they’re in a public school …. maybe it’s a toss up.

  4. Forget all the talk of “Metrics” whatever the hell that means! These people (the teachers) are getting paid a full salary for doing zip. They’re sitting on their fat asses and doing nothing. It’s the best argument I know of for privatizing all education. You can rest assured that when parents pull their children out of a private school, the school quits getting paid pretty quickly! When will we start getting a refund on our taxes when our children are not in public schools? You guessed it: NEVER!

  5. There are a lot of shitheads about throwing the “fascist” and “white supremacy” tags around. You know them automatically. They are universally assholes who spend hours every day on social media. Few have the courage to say it to your face of course. They are cowards alone and violent in numbers.

  6. I dunno, maybe you’re cool with 700 innocent US citizens dying every day. Far cooler than if it was 700 daily invading us military in Iraq.

    Whatever floats your boat.

    1. Because that’s EXACTLY what we’re talking about. It’s amazing how many people think this is a reasonable response.

    2. The death total is going to be the same regardless if teachers go to work or not.

    3. Why do folks resort to calling out death rates as a response various debates about C19 policy? Do the deaths justify anything and everything Team Apocalypse dreams up?

      1. People are dying! We must keep doing these things that have failed to prevent t people from dying!

    4. I dunno, maybe you’re cool with 700 innocent US citizens dying every day.

      Yup. The same way I’ve been cool with ~2300 innocent US citizens dying of CVD every day for the last half-century. The same way I’ve been cool with ~1600 innocent US citizens dying of cancer every day for the last half century.

      1. It’s just a deadly man made virus dipshits.

        1. You think this is something?

          Wait until China gets sued for releasing this upon the world.

          Can you spell global economic upheaval?

        2. A good portion of CVD and cancer deaths are man made dipshit.

          1. Neither cancer nor CVD are man made.

            Were you born at night? Was it last night?

            Those COVID bats came from Yunnan, 1000 miles from Wuhan. Bats only fly 30 miles from their roost.

            None of the first COVID cases were at Yunnan or on the way between there and Wuhan.

            The bat lady virologist did collect bats from Yunnan and bring them to the p4 lab at Wuhan to develop exactly COVID.

            Fuckwits Fuckwits Fuckwits Fuckwits

            1. “…Fuckwits Fuckwits Fuckwits Fuckwits”

              Nazi pile of shit offers his most intelligent response.

  7. This would be a great time to eliminate a great chunk of these teachers pests.
    High tech has rendered many jobs obsolete, no reason not get rid of in person teachers even if kids still need to meet in schools.

    1. I’m not disagreeing with your main point, but I don’t see the logic of travelling to school just to sit in a classroom and attend a Zoom meeting with a teacher who’s teaching from home. Is it just for those kids who don’t have any computer and/or internet they can use at home? Since we’re talking about NYC, not some remote area, I doubt there’s very many people not equipped to use Zoom at home.

      1. There’s a lot of children in NYCHA buildings.

      2. Ideally kids should study at home. If parents can’t be there they’ll need babysitters of some sort. Plus if they need “socialization” they can congregate in a school. I assume kids who are really into learning can do it at home with the appropriate software.

        1. You can do pods but those cost money. A lot of kids just don’t like learning from home and would much rather be at school.

          I saw something about work from home today. A minority want to stay that way. The rest would like that a couple days a week or just go back to work.

        2. Unlikely. Although many teachers are terrible, good teachers are invaluable and cannot be replaced by technology.

  8. Stop paying the staff that refuse to report back to work. Problem solved.

    1. the Reagan Offensive.

    2. Union contracts.

      1. “I have altered the contract. Pray that I do not alter it more.”

      2. Governments can brake contracts any time they want. Don’t like it, don’t work for the government.

  9. Lol

    Fuck NYC residents. They can stew in the bed they made. Or something like that.

  10. Shocker: When you keep schools closed, lie about them being death mills, then call opening advocates white supremacists

    Remember when people understood what “white supremacy” is? I do.

    1. It used to mean a bunch of power-hungry old white people were in charge of everything black people said and did, but we’ve since come to realize that this is actually good. Now “white supremacy” refers to the Republican bogeymen who live under our beds and secretly undermine all of our well-intentioned policies.

  11. Seems to me that “white supremacists” would want to keep schools closed thereby leaving minorities more ignorant thus re-enforcing stereotypical views on their lack of intelligence.

  12. “Show us the metrics that prove we are less effective working remote.”

    It should be REMOTELY—an adverb, not the adjective “remote.” I just hope she’s not teaching English when she can’t even use correct grammar on a sign.

    1. “The metrics on my teaching ability are still out but I’m 100% effective at holding a sign on the street for more money like a homeless person.”

      “I am the product of a public education!”

    2. Do you also “work part timely”? Do you “work constructionly”?

  13. On May 1, the Keep NYC Schools Open coalition held a rally [met by] a counter-protest, featuring teachers wearing sashes that read, “We will not die for DOE”

    “We will, however, die for the First Amendment.”

  14. Consequences of putting Gov-Guns in charge of education.

  15. Note, public schools have nothing to do with free minds or free markets.

    1. The uneducated cannot have a free mind. If you do not know the basics, you cannot participate in a free market either. Public school is absolutely necessary for those who do not have the ability to homeschool or the wealth for private school.

      1. LMAO… If they don’t have the “ability” to learn, teach or generate wealth under what absurdly-retarded notion is “commie school” going to change that?

        Your idiocy reminds me of sheep I once raised that would literally starve themselves to death while coughing and chocking on food. Yes, yes indeed — Idiots being surrounded by opportunities to learn, create wealth, teach and be something besides ground fertilizer but complain about being too stupid to take advantage of it.

        1. Even the “Monkey see; Monkey do” mentality topples that pathetic theology.

        2. He’s talking about the parents’ ability to provide alternative schooling.
          Maybe they are too far gone now, but I certainly got a decent basic education in public schools.
          Standard disclaimer: government run schools should not exist.

      2. If you can’t afford to educate your children, then you simply can’t afford to have children. Having kids is a conscious, deliberate choice, and the consequences of that decision are not the responsibility of broader society to address.

        1. I agree, but many parents do pay school taxes and are paying for their children’s education. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of them to expect something when all that money is being spent on schools.

          1. I agree, but many parents do pay school taxes and are paying for their children’s education.

            Further, “can’t afford to educate your children” rests on the parents “can’t afford to educate your children while paying taxes (and observing lockdown orders)” is not.

          2. You could do vouchers but it gives the government more control over private schools which are not actually private anymore.

            School taxes are mostly property taxes and you pay them if you have kids or not. It is not fair but that is what you get.

            One option for parents instead of private schools is use that money to move to a better school district. Then you get more of it back. Houses in better school districts are worth more.

      3. True. Unfortunately, public schools fail to educate students, in particular in “the basics”.

        And you don’t need “wealth” to attend private school. In fact, if parents simply got the money they now pay in taxes to finance costly and ineffective public schools, they would save money sending their kids to private schools.

        1. The taxes are paid by everyone. I suppose you could give them back their share but it would not come out to the $10k plus they spend per year per child for public schools.

          The other dilemma is the secular/parochial controversy.

          Another is that private schools generally pay less so the public schools get the more experienced teachers and more of those with masters degrees.

          I’m all for school choice but it is a complicated subject when you think about it.

  16. How many of these teachers go grocery shopping? Employees of Walmart, Target and any grocery store you can find are in more danger to COVID-19 exposure than teachers.

    1. And store employees haven’t had particularly worse outcomes than anyone else either.

  17. the metrics sign is cute. poor grammar *and* devotion to authority.

  18. As a teacher and local union leader, this is incredibly frustrating to read. At my school in Washington state, where the state government is being incredibly cautious, we have reopened our school and I believe there are maybe 3 or 4 out of our 600 members that are not in classrooms teaching every day.

    I personally don’t understand how teachers would NOT want to be in the classroom; distance teaching is not only bad for kids but to do it right takes way more work than teaching in person.

    We did have two weeks of school with only about 2/3 of teachers being there, but once we got vaccinated people universally returned to classrooms (again, with a couple exceptions who have severe medical conditions or are taking leave). Surprising no one, once all the teachers were back in the building and we moved to 3 ft distancing (which allows all students to be in school every day), a lot of distance students returned to class.

    Almost every teacher I know wants everything to return to normal next fall, but it is our local government and district office that is talking about continuing with hybrid. Most teachers work hard, love working with kids, and want the best for them. It is frustrating to see “leaders” working to keep schools closed when the science doesn’t support it.

    1. You seem like a good and caring teacher. But now you understand the racist nature of teachers unions. I’m not just using political epithets. This is actually true.

      Even my family members, some of whom voted for Biden, recognize this.

      Sanjosemike (no longer in CA)

  19. The kiddos are fucked without an education.

    Take whatever actions necessary to educate your kids.

  20. For public school teachers, “the metrics” say that they are equally effective remote and in person, which is to say, not effective at all.

    That’s why we shouldn’t go back to in-person learning in public schools, we should simply close public schools altogether.

    1. And do what?

      If you just close them we would be Somalia in a few generations.

      1. I think Somalia has a few problems besides lack of public schools.

        I don’t think that compulsory or government funded education is necessary to keep a functioning society going. I’m sure the transition would be a little awkward, though.

      2. “And do what?” — Let the free-market corporations fill in the “perfect” education. Let’s face some hard facts here. Large companies requiring brilliancy already has on-campus learning of which attendees will be picked long BEFORE the politically public indoctrinated BECAUSE they are actually taught a skill.

        1/2 of Grade school would easily fall into it’s own market. Heck good private daycare already is a super-school by public school standards.

        The bottom line is this. Don’t trust ‘armed’ robbers to spend your money where it will best suit your needs and that is exactly what the foundation of the public school system IS..

  21. You live may not be a sacrifice, but your job can be. No work no pay like the rest. Go on unemployment if your afraid of getting a disease with a 99% survival rate.

  22. Friendly reminder, Matt Welch doesn’t want minorities in his kid’s school. Also, you are not entitled to slave labor. Sorry if you lack the critical thinking skills to figure this out.

  23. The chief goal of teachers unions is to make CERTAIN that black kids remain poor and subservient to Democrats. They are the party of racism.

    I’m not just calling them “names.” This is actually true.

    Sanjosemike (no longer in CA)

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  25. Just got back from shopping. 90% of the people are wearing masks. What will it take for people to realize it is safe for vaccinated people to live.

  26. Hard to believe this is the same country that walked straight into machine gun fire on D Day.

    When did we become such cowards.

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