CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) claimed during the presidential debate Thursday that U.S. schools are unable to open for in-person learning during the pandemic because “they need a lot of money.” VERDICT: False. Biden accused President Trump during a discussion about shutdowns, “Schools, they need a lot of money to open. They need to deal with ventilation systems.
New studies suggest that politics, not science, is driving local policies on school closures and re-openings. According to the non-partisan education news website The 74, the two factors most closely correlated with school re-openings are the share of the local vote that went to President Donald Trump in 2016, and the degree to which teachers belong to unions. Lower support
Virginia's Fairfax County teachers' union announced it wants to keep public schools virtual until August 2021. The Fairfax Education Association has kickstarted a letter-writing campaign urging the county to continue online-only learning through the 2020-2021 school year. The union claims that teachers cannot return to in-person instruction until "there is a widely available scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment"
If the Fairfax Education Association had its way, public schools would remain closed until at least August 2021—and possibly much longer. The union representing teachers in the northern Virginia school district is asking parents to sign a petition demanding all-virtual education until a "scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment" is available. "The metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread," wrote the teachers. The petition comes as Fairfax officials are moving toward a limited reopening of schools for some students, involving two days per week of in-person instruction. Elsewhere across the country, many private schools have reopened, as have some public school districts. Large districts in major cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York City have proceeded with extreme caution, even though some of those districts have extremely low COVID-19 case numbers. The preliminary data from schools that have reopened suggests the risks of outbreaks are low. While many colleges and universities have seen significant spikes—mostly due to social gatherings outside the classroom—there's little evidence of surging cases in K-12 education. Moreover, kids and teenagers seem to have very, very little to fear from COVID-19 in terms of their own health outcomes. They represent a category of people for whom the consequences of heavy-handed mitigation efforts—having to endure distance learning, for instance—are much worse than the disease itself. But teachers unions don't represent the interests of students, parents, or families in general. They represent the interests of public employees who get paid regardless of whether they have to show up for work or not. For the union, a cost-benefit analysis might never favor reopening: As long as there's any danger whatsoever, why not keep teachers at home? "Since none of the requirements for safe return are likely to be met in the foreseeable future of the 2020-21 school year, we reiterate: Keep Fairfax County Public Schools Virtual for the 2020-21 school year," wrote the union. But one can easily imagine this demand extending well beyond next fall. Such is the result of making the needs of children the lowest possible priority.
President Donald Trump pointed out to supporters Friday night at a campaign rally in Macon, Georgia, what he and his administration have done for the black community in America. “I got criminal justice reform done, prison reform, Opportunity Zones with [Sen.] Tim Scott (R) from South Carolina — a great, great man, great person,” Trump said. As the U.S. Economic
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said last year that charter schools are "very misguided." In an interview with the nation’s largest teacher’s union, he agreed with National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen García’s claim that charter schools are "very misguided school reforms." Recent Stories in Democrats Biden's campaign website does not mention charter schools under his "plan for educators, students, and our future." He has received endorsements from NEA, the American Federation of Teachers, and other major teachers' unions, which fiercely oppose charter schools despite evidence of their success in improving student results. "If you're going to have a charter school, it cannot come at the expense of the public school," Biden said, echoing the unions' argument that charter schools are a danger to the health of public schools. Biden has also said that he is "not a charter school fan" because they take money away from public schools, although public charter schools spend less per pupil than traditional public schools. The argument that charter schools "take money" from public schools has faced criticism from economists including Thomas Sowell, who has pointed out that charter schools deliver improved results for minority students compared with district schools that cost more. Research by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also suggests that the superior results of charter schools save the government millions in the long run. President Donald Trump criticized Biden for pushing to shutter charter schools, arguing in his speech at the Republican National Convention that they are a lifeline for families in underperforming school districts. Biden said at an education forum in December that, as president, he would make sure that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's work promoting charter schools would be undone.