The fierce urgency of schools reopening now

These costs are particularly galling because of the obvious double standard. Most private schools remain open. Other parents with means have opted for homeschooling or private tutors. California Governor Gavin Newsom has been rightfully pilloried for keeping his kids in a private school while most California public schools remain closed. But Newsom is merely a high-profile parent in the pandemic’s two-tier educational system. Few affluent families are subjecting their children to the indignity of hour-long Zoom sessions. Many other families don’t have a choice.

If affluent and engaged parents withdraw from public schools, the pace of left-wing activism will likely accelerate. It is no accident that school closures have coincided with the end of admissions tests for elite public high schools in San Francisco and the suburbs of Washington, D.C., a renewed push to end public school admissions exams in New York City, and the absurd spectacle of San Francisco renaming its shuttered schools instead of reopening them. Engaged public school parents are a check on institutional radicalism because they demand accountability. If the lockdowns and school closures prompt more parents to flee the system for private alternatives, public schools will become more radical, more fixated on left-wing grievances, and more academically deficient. Oregon’s Department of Education is now matter-of-factly promoting the idea that asking students to “show their work” in math class is a form of white supremacy. Fewer engaged public school parents means fewer brakes on this type of institutional radicalism.

Last December, a California public school teacher wrote a provocative piece for the Bellows arguing that the Covid lockdown was not just an overreaction, but a deliberate transfer of wealth engineered by political and economic elites.