It’s been a long journey for him on schools. In May, the early days of the pandemic, he was cautious about reopening schools because the data about transmission among kids wasn’t firm yet. But just a few weeks later he was more encouraged. By late July he was pushing Trump’s position that it was important to try to reopen schools in the fall, citing the “downstream unintended consequences on families” if schools stayed closed. After Thanksgiving, as cases began to surge, he continued to prioritize schools by insisting that businesses like bars should close to limit the spread so that students can stay in the classroom.

Two weeks later, with cases exploding, he made the point again: “When you take into consideration the safety and the health of the children as well as the teachers, in general, it looks like we can keep the children in school and get them back to school safely.”

After the initial hesitation last spring, he’s been pretty steady about getting kids back into classrooms whenever possible. So why, after designating him as the Yoda of their pandemic response, does Team Biden continue to side with teachers’ union priorities over Fauci’s and the CDC’s?

Students are actually safer in school than they are outside of it, he notes. Being in the classroom isn’t just good for their mental and intellectual health, it’s good for their physical health during a pandemic. Imagine that.

How about teachers, though? Well, chew on these two graphs. In Texas, school staff do seem to be at a meaningfully greater risk of infection. But in New York they aren’t.


The obvious solution is to prioritize teachers for the vaccine in exchange for a union pledge to get all members back in the classroom as soon as they’ve received their first shot (which provides a strong degree of protection after a few weeks). Teachers are already permitted to go to the front of the line in New York, in fact. But as far as I’m aware, Team Joe isn’t trying to make that arrangement happen. They continue to stick to their position of wanting more money to improve safety measures in schools, which happens to be the union position.

The most charitable read on what the White House is up to is that they’re using this as leverage to get Republicans to cave on Biden’s stimulus proposal. If they go for a “vaccine in exchange for returning to the job” deal, that gives the Senate GOP some cover to reject a stimulus deal. Why do we need more money for schools if we’re going to make them safe for teachers via vaccinations, right? By tying school reopenings to the stimulus package, Biden deputies like Ron Klain are putting pressure on moderates like Collins and Murkowski to make a deal lest they be blamed by parents for not doing everything possible to get their kids back in class.

Klain was on CBS’s news show tonight and was asked about reopening schools. Watch below at 1:30. It’s not enough to just open them, he says. They need to stay open. Which is true — but of course vaccinating teachers en masse would solve that problem even more thoroughly than “safety measures,” which may or may not always be effective. The good news is that Sleepy Joe has made it a goal of his administration to get K-8 students back into class before the end of his first 100 days. By tying themselves to a 100-day timeframe, Team Biden now will have to decide whether to anger unions or to anger voters by the end of April. If they want to keep their campaign promise then they need to start twisting teachers’ arms. If they don’t want to keep their promise then good luck to them in the midterms.