School Closings Reflect Ideology, Not Safety

by Hans Bader

Schools in liberal northern Virginia and the state’s other metropolitan areas are currently educating students only online. In Virginia’s most conservative counties, students usually have access to some instruction in-person.

In-person instruction is easier for elementary school students. They often have difficulty with remote learning, which can require mastery of electronic devices and concentrating for hours a day on a computer screen or tablet.

For that reason, some counties, mainly in conservative areas, give in-person learning to students in the earliest grades (such as Kindergarten and first and second grade), while offering only online instruction or a mixture of online and in-person instruction to older students.

Decisions to keep schools closed to in-person learning don’t seem to be based on safety risks to children. As Steven J. Duffield notes, “There have been zero deaths in Virginia under age of 20” from the coronavirus, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Yet, Virginia has considerable regional variation in school reopenings, with decisions linked more to school boards’ ideology, than student safety.

This variation is occurring across the country, with ideology playing an even starker role than in Virginia. Reason magazine reported last month that local officials’ decisions about whether to reopen K-12 schools are driven mainly by teachers “union influence and politics, not safety.” It noted that Jon Valant, a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, recently found:

COVID-19 risk was not statistically related to school district reopening decisions. Valant’s analysis found school district reopening decisions are instead related to people’s political leanings and support for President Donald Trump. … The less support Trump had in an area, the less likely that school district is to offer in-person learning right now.

Decisions to keep schools closed were usually not explained by the rate of “coronavirus deaths and cases” in a given area. Many schools remain closed for political, not health reasons. A liberal official in Los Angeles says schools there will be closed until after the election.

Closing schools to in-person learning harms the economy by forcing many parents to stop working to stay home with their kids. That in turn helps elect Joe Biden, who currently leads Donald Trump in public opinion polls. Economic models show that the worse the economy, the more likely a president is to lose an election to his challenger.

An official in staunchly Democratic Los Angeles County recently said schools there would not reopen “until after the election.” As the Daily Wire notes:

On Wednesday, audio surfaced of Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer saying that K-12 schools in America’s largest county likely will not open until after the November election. …

“We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either tier 2 or to reopening K-12 schools at least until after the election, in early November,” Ferrer said. “When we look at the timing of everything, it seems to us a more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re going to be where we are now until we are done with the election.”

Keeping schools closed until the election is purely about politics. It has nothing to do with students’ health. Even if a new president is elected, he won’t take office until Jan. 20, 2021 — more than two months after the election. So the election won’t have any immediate effect on healthcare policy or the fight against COVID.

Democrats in Los Angeles County hope to unseat a vulnerable GOP incumbent in the county’s outer reaches, Congressman Mike Garcia. He  narrowly won a special election in early 2020, in a district that earlier voted for Hillary Clinton, Senator Kamala Harris (D), and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

Keeping schools closed for political reasons harms children. As syndicated columnist Phil Kerpen notes, “School closures kill more children than COVID.”

Indeed, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that “extended school closure is harmful to children,” in its guidance about “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools This Fall.”

The CDC notes that closing schools “can lead to severe learning loss.” Moreover, “extended closures can be harmful to children’s mental health and can increase the likelihood that children engage in unhealthy behaviors.” A “notable increase” in child “abuse” has occurred during the recent school closures.

As the head of the CDC noted, among the young, “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess, that we had as background, than we are seeing deaths from COVID.”

In most of Europe, schools have reopened or never closed. That’s true even countries hit harder by COVID than the U.S., such as the United Kingdom. British schools reopened with very little COVID spread among either students or staff.

“Covid-19 has not caused the deaths of any otherwise healthy schoolchildren” in the United Kingdom, even though that country had a higher overall death rate from COVID-19 than the U.S., according to the Independent.

Nor does the coronavirus cause many serious illnesses among children. Quite the contrary: Recently, a British Medical Journal study was published which found the need for children to have hospital treatment for Covid-19 was “tiny” and critical care “even tinier.”

Studies find that children are much less likely to contract the virus than adults, and also much less likely to spread it — especially those under age 10. Public health officials in Switzerland announced that children under 10 could hug their grandparents again because they pose so little risk.

A German study found no evidence of coronavirus spread in schools there. A commentary published in the journal Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, concluded that young children rarely transmit COVID-19 to each other or to adults, weighing in favor of reopening the schools.

Given that low risk, elementary schools should be reopened immediately to in-person learning. Other K-12 schools should be reopened soon, unless they are in an area disproportionately afflicted by COVID-19.

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35 responses to “School Closings Reflect Ideology, Not Safety

  1. Well I come from conservative suburban Pittsburgh, with much less COVID, and while I cannot dispute the liberalness of NoVA, my hometown school is online only too. Liberal NY going back live, right?

    The big news yesterday was the Fairfax FCPS system was hit by ransomware attack. FBI helping.

    Gov Hogan MD of course decided at the 12th hour to call for in-person schools, just a couple days before online school started. His first mistake I am aware of, how could they change horses overnight?

    • Maryland is district by district. It has nothing to do with differing health conditions and everything to do with the political influence of a special interest group called “teachers”.

      Hogan was using his “bully pulpit” to try to encourage in-person teaching. In the end it’s a local decision. Maryland is not a strict Dillon’s Rule state like Virginia. Counties can levy their own income tax for example. Hogan’s call for in-person reopening was late but he is on record and hopefully it will encourage an earlier reopening for in-person teaching than otherwise would have been the case.

      Virginia’s mime-in-chief apparently has no opinion on whether schools should reopen for in-person teaching now.

  2. Is it ideological not to want to drown in your own snot?

  3. Hanover County has in-person instruction. This past week, I spent a full day in an elementary school and one full day in a high school.

    I was pleasantly surprised at how well everything worked under these extraordinary conditions. Staff and students wore masks religiously. Social distancing was constantly stressed and enforced gently by staff. Teachers were constantly wiping surfaces down.

    Getting students in and out of the building because of social distancing and the bus limitations that force more parent-provided transportation is a challenge.

    Teachers seem happy to be back in the classroom. Students certainly are.

    I think it’s going to work.

  4. As usual, Mr. Bader is misleading in his arguments He starts off pointing out, rightly, that some schools, particularly in some rural areas, are providing in-class instruction at least part of the week. (To me, this seems the worst of all options, for teachers, students, and parents. But, that is another issue.)

    Then, he offers the contention that such decisions are based, not on safety reasons, but on political reasons. As evidence for this claim, he pivots from Virginia to diatribes against national teacher unions and all those Democrats in cities, in states other than Virginia, that are somehow conspiring against Trump. Some of his evidence for this claim is interesting. One article linked to as evidence cites the President’s politicizing of school openings! The article goes on to explain that school closings are usually correlated with local political attitudes. This is probably what Bader was focussing on. Sorry, one of the basic warnings in statistics is that correlation is not necessarily causation.

    • The one thing that can be said is that Bader actually does represent a mindset in the political realm and yep, misrepresenting is perfectly valid.

      After all, if the MSM is biased, so can the right-leaning media, right?

      😉

      I hope that Jim is getting some compensation for Baders posts…

      😉

    • Spare me. Fairfax County was ready to reopen with some in-person teaching when the teachers squeezed the cowards on the school board and the board reversed its decision. The school in Fairfax County had plans which met Northam’s reopening guidelines. The matter was purely the victory of special interests over science-based policy.

      I thought liberals always respected science.

  5. Well, if “Phil Kerpen” says it, it must be so, eh?

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I have spoken to 3 former colleagues in Loudoun County Public Schools who are now on paid administrative leave. For what?
    1. Students using racial slurs during virtual learning.
    2. Students showing pornographic images during virtual learning.
    3. Student from another school dropping into virtual learning to hang with his homey.

    Virtual education is total show. You can’t make this up.

    • Why are the teachers on leave, rather than the students being disciplined, including the notification of their parents?

      • I was wondering the same. And in terms of behavior, the teachers I know say that this kind of behavior is not exactly unheard of when they are “in-person” at normal times. I bet Mr. James career as a teacher has some similar tales of misbehavior for in-person.

        OTOH – Mr. Bader is a tried and true spokesperson for Conservatives. He says what they love to hear and it’s not like Conservatives already hated public education and “leftist” teachers even before the pandemic. Virtual just became another spear to throw.

        But I do give them credit. Conservatives today are not exactly shy about their complaints! I don’t think they’re gaining many new recruits even from folks not happy with virtual. The last thing they’re gonna do is elect Conservatives to run public education!

        😉

      • It doesn’t make any sense to me either Mr. Dick. As Waylon Jennings once said “I Don’t Think Hank Done It this Way”.

    • Virtual learning, as it is practiced in Virginia K-12 public schools, is a show alright. A **** show. But it seems that the majority of teachers in districts with all virtual “learning” just don’t care.

      As an aside …. given that no science was used to justify closing in-person learning, what manner of liberal alchemy will justify reopening? Wait for a vaccine?

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I have been wondering where Mr. Bader has been. I miss you. I say Mr. Bacon ought to make him the Honorable Lord Fairfax the 15th. The Honorable Lord Fairfax the 14th will be endorsing “His Excellency, Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Justin Fairfax”, one day this week.

  8. Fairfax the 15th? Louis the 16th is fitting, and only gently used.

  9. If you missed NOVA this week, you should google “CRISPR” and enjoy the read. I suggest you put aside thoughts of “Brave New World”, albeit apropos, and think about the process described in natural occurrence.

    Then, read this: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161128151050.htm

    We really are not from our parents, but through them.

    • Go on… why are you espousing real science..from real scientific sources here? blogger science only, please.

      • You mean like the science behind Northam’s school reopening guidelines. Guidelines which Fairfax County schools could meet. Inconvenient science isn’t science I guess. Typical liberal hypocrisy.

    • I think this could imply COVID susceptibility due to DNA structure, whereas the DNA structure is conceivably influenced by past viruses in society. Analogy, but perhaps not so good one, but native Americans being so sensitive to diseases from the first settlers.

      • It absolutely could, and it could mean that 10s of generations from now, the DNA could provide cell level immunity to COV2.

        Really, you got to watch that NOVA. It even has Putin discussing the possibility of creating the fearless, pain-free perfect soldier.

        With the technology of CRISPR, and the CAS9 protein, it is possible to create whatever suits your need. Eugenics always carried the moral baggage of selective breeding, euthanasia, racial superiority, etc., etc., CRISPR now allows designer animals, plants, and well, people.

        I wish that they had discovered this 55 years ago instead of 5. The next 50 years will be exciting, and I am saddened by the prospect of not seeing the results. Kinda like a power outage in the last 10 minutes while watching “Silence of the Lambs”.

  10. Wastewater testing for COVID19 is becoming a “thing” and now some schools are doing it – for the pipe coming out of the school.

    https://turnto10.com/i-team/nbc-10-i-team-sewage-testing-offers-early-warning-for-schools

    this is yet another area where those that want the schools open – could advocate FOR instead of against….

    If the critics would advocate FOR testing and safeguarding teachers with co-mormidities, more temporary classroom trailers, etc… things to enable and support opening schools… instead of more stoking of the culture war against public education “leftists”.

    • There is an election in a few weeks. You hope for too much, Larry. The partisans on both sides are in fanatic mode. (But an all-virtual year is a lost year, totally, especially in the lower grades.) In the meantime, watch all the private schools, most of which are conducting in person classes. Some opened before Labor Day and are now two weeks in. By second semester, and when the election is behind us (the voting, not the recounts and lawsuits), an intelligent response will be possible. Well, more possible.

      And I’m with others. Mr. Whitehead — please explain how teachers you mention got put into hock by their students acting out?

      • “…an intelligent response will be possible. Well, more possible.”

        Possibly even more intelligent. But I fear not. When facts are introduced, there is an immediate shock followed by the effort to twist them away.

      • I can’t give you the answer to that. My best guess is that the teachers did not follow the new way of handling virtual discipline (is there such a thing?) by the book.

  11. I like the idea of testing the waste sewage from the school each day and then going from there as to what to do next.

    Perhaps has the potential to partner Colleges like VCU/UVA with K-12 schools.

    I’ve felt all along – if the pro-in-person people were supportive and advocated safety they would have won over more people instead turning it into yet another wedge issue.

    Pure partisan politics. Are any of the anti-teacher folks actually running for school board office promising to purge the leftists or just blathering?

  12. Two of my nieces are school teachers in Minnesota. Both are teaching in person.

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