This debate is long over | EDITORIAL

More than two years into the pandemic, some progressive media are realizing that allowing national teachers’ unions to dominate the debate over school closures may not have been a good idea.

The Washington Post this week examined a school district near Colorado Springs, Colorado that resisted virus panic and insisted on keeping children in the classroom while refusing to impose mask mandates. While many districts across the country are now dealing with the ravages of remote learning, schools in Colorado’s Lewis Palmer District are not one of them.

“Standardized test results show the average Lewis-Palmer student has made progress in reading” during the pandemic, the Post found. “Although they lost ground in math, they performed better than the average Coloradan. SAT scores remained stable. At the same time, “No children were hospitalized with the virus.”

This is in stark contrast to many big city districts, which have handed over their authority to union bosses determined to close schools regardless of the harm inflicted on students.

“In the nation’s largest school systems…teacher unions and concerned parents have battled reopening plans,” the Post recounts. “Public health officials have warned that social distancing will save lives, and schools have responded by designing hybrid programs or simply sticking to virtual learning. But, over time, these measures have also imposed costs: today, students are struggling with significant learning losses and mental health issues. »

While the initial school closures were understandable in March 2020, the closures that extended into the following school year – and even the one after, thanks to omicron – were indefensible as it became clear that the virus posed little threat to children and transmission rates were not high on campuses. It is also worth remembering the shameful politics at work. Last year, The New Yorker reported that teachers’ unions only called for closures after then-President Donald Trump spoke out in favor of keeping schools open.

The result was a disaster in places where union politics dominated.

“Yet thousands of school districts — typically small districts in conservative-leaning counties — have responded to the pandemic as Lewis Palmer District 38 has done,” the Post reported. The fact that they were able to ward off the worst pathologies associated with empty classrooms and remote learning “offers evidence for those who say schools could have avoided some of the prolonged closures – and the severe academic and social impacts who as a result”.

Despite this, the Post article argues that “debate continues over which approach was the right one.” No. This debate is closed. Union officials who insisted on keeping children out of school got lost in a rout – and tragically took too many children with them.

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