Joe Scarborough: Open the damned schools already

The ironic thing about this clip is that it begins with him dumping on Ron DeSantis for prioritizing “owning the libs” in his policies, yet DeSantis’s most celebrated decision as governor was driven by the very point Scarborough makes here. He fought to reopen Florida’s schools last summer, believing it was riskier to keep kids home and do them lasting developmental damage than to bring them back and tolerate occasional small COVID outbreaks. The science has vindicated him on that risk calculation, as Morning Joe now allows.

DeSantis’s reward for being ahead of the curve on one of the most important policy disputes of the pandemic is the eternal grudging disdain of the Beltway class for his Trump pedigree. Oh well.

Still, two cheers for Scarborough for championing this cause. Few news shows are more influential among legislators and political media influencers than his; if he’s showing exasperation at the slow pace of school reopenings, that’ll signal to them that it’s a genuine problem rather than just a Republican talking point they might otherwise dismiss. He’s not stopping at schools either:

Schools remain the chief concern, though, and not just because educating kids is an unusually high social priority. Businesses will reopen as soon as their communities let them, as their bottom lines demand it. Most or all will be operating this summer. Schools are different: Thanks to the power of the teachers unions and their bizarre, selfish hypercaution about returning to class, there’s still doubt about whether some school districts will reopen this fall — even though every teacher in America will have been eligible for vaccination for many months by then.

Concerns of teachers, who have argued it is too dangerous to return to many buildings, probably will linger, and so may battles that consumed many districts this year. Some families are sure to prefer fully remote education — either because it is working for their children or because they fear going back. Many districts will continue to offer online options…

Several district leaders said they are planning to reopen full time but they are not ready to commit. They say they cannot predict the path of the pandemic or whether their communities will do what is needed to bring and keep infection rates down. Some fear the spread of variants of the virus, against which vaccines may not be as effective, will lead to a fresh surge in cases and a new round of restrictions…

“I’ve seen inequalities all my life, and the last thing we can afford to do at the end of a pandemic that has already disproportionately impacted our Black and Brown and Indigenous communities, the last thing we need to do is to say we did not take the time to do studies in their environments, in their schools,” [NEA President Becky Pringle] said. “We still have lots of questions.”

If your kid goes to a public school in a blue state and you can afford to either move or switch them to private, start thinking hard about it now. Don’t gamble on your state doing right by you by September. If they cared about your children, they’d already be in class, no?

Having said that, there *is* good news. The national picture has gotten much better since January:

More than half of kids are in school full-time and more than 80 percent are in classrooms at least part-time. As COVID cases continue to decline this summer, more schools will shift to in-class instruction for the fall, leaving the ones that are still leaning towards virtual learning looking like extreme, embarrassing outliers by comparison. That pressure will help reopen some districts that are on the fence. It already has, in fact: Burbio’s state “index” for measuring how many kids are back in class finds blue states like Michigan, Connecticut, and Vermont already on par with some red ones. Kids are going back. The question now is whether some will need to wait until fall to do so or whether public pressure can get them back soon, before the end of the current school year. That’s what has Scarborough exercised. With cases low in so many parts of the U.S. right now, he says, why wait?

Watch four minutes here. More of this, please.