Although it may look counter-intuitive, don’t be too surprised about this rebuke to Democrats from Nicholas Kristof over school closures. For one thing, they’re indefensible from either a scientific or economic perspective, and the greatest harm is done to children — a topic on which Kristof often focuses. Even though Kristof usually fits neatly into the New York Times’ liberal-progressive paradigm, or more accurately the enforced progressive commune these days, he’s also broken away from that paradigm when warranted by the burdens on the poor and the disadvantaged.
Perhaps Kristof hasn’t broken away quite this much in the past, though (via The Anchoress):
Some things are true even though President Trump says them.
Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.
Yet America is shutting schools — New York City announced Wednesday that it was closing schools in the nation’s largest school district — even as it allows businesses like restaurants and bars to operate. What are our priorities? …
Granted, the United States has done such a poor job of controlling the virus that as the pandemic rages across the country it may be necessary to shut some schools. But that should be the last resort.
Kristof peppers his column with criticisms of Trump, arguing that Trump has politicized the COVID-19 response. There’s truth to that, but Trump’s hardly the only one guilty of politicizing the issue, nor was he particularly worse than others. What about Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi calling his decision to close off travel with China as “xenophobic”?
Most of the column, however, Kristof spends in pointing out all of the long-term damage being done to American students. Democrats spend a lot of effort talking about their support for the poor and disadvantaged, those issues near and dear to Kristof’s heart, but they’re actively consigning those children to far worse outcomes than they can expect from COVID-19 exposure:
America’s education system already transmits advantage and disadvantage from one generation to the next: Rich kids attend rich schools that propel them forward, and low-income children attend struggling schools that hold them back.
School closures magnify these inequities, as many private schools remain open and affluent parents are better able to help kids adjust to remote learning. At the same time, low-income children fall even further behind. …
Dropouts live shorter lives, so while the virus kills, so do school closures. One study this month estimated that closures of primary schools in the United States will cause many more years of life lost, because of increasing numbers of dropouts, than could be saved even if schools did spread the virus freely.
Which they haven’t, as we already know:
New York public schools have tested more than 140,000 students and staff and had a positivity rate of 0.23% as of Monday.
— Rebecca Jarvis (@RebeccaJarvis) November 18, 2020
The only reason de Blasio came up with such an artificially low number is that it was the best this dolt could do in negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers.
As the Reason Foundation’s director of school choice, Corey A. DeAngelis, has documented, the single biggest factor in determining whether a school system opens its doors is not the underlying COVID-19 rate but the comparative power of the relevant teachers’ union. Just follow the science!
You know what will still be open when the 3 percent trigger shuts down the in-person education option for 900,000 kids? Day-care centers. And private schools. So strange that the public-school system is losing whole swaths of the population! It’s hard to imagine a better advertisement for education provided by non-governmental means.
So parents with wealth can still go out and earn money by putting their kids in private schools and care centers. Single-parent and poorer households will have to stay home and lose their jobs, all to prevent perhaps the lowest-transmission environment from operating to educate the next generation of Americans. All to avoid admitting that Trump’s actually correct about this issue and to ingratiate themselves with a powerful union.
Kudos to Kristof for rebuking New York officials over this shameful decision. Should we open a pool to determine just when his colleagues at the Gray Lady try to get him fired for it?
Update: Don’t look now, but there’s a battle brewing on the other coast too:
A hands-off approach by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and public pressure from powerful labor unions has led the state’s biggest city districts to keep schools shuttered, leaving most of California’s 6 million public schoolchildren learning at home. Even San Francisco, which has had one of the lowest infection rates for any U.S. city, hasn’t attempted in-person teaching.
As the pandemic wears on, more Democrats are sounding the alarm after staying silent earlier this fall. They are increasingly distressed that California’s approach has widened the gap between low-income communities of color and wealthier white families.
Frustrations hit a new level in October, when Newsom said his own children had returned to private school in Sacramento — while public school students in the surrounding neighborhoods remained home. Now leaders in the governor’s own party are turning on him, saying the status quo has left the state with crisis-level inequity.
California’s system amounts to “state-sanctioned segregation,” Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), the chair of the state Assembly Education Committee, said in an interview — a frank declaration for a Democrat consistently supported by the California Teachers Association.
Indeed. And one has to wonder whether this might be a watershed moment for teacher-union standing, even in blue states.