Conditioned by years dealing with colds and flu, teachers are understandably skittish. And infection rates among U.S. children are rising. But research published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics indicates that children are unlikely to transmit Covid-19 to classmates or family members. Within households, the virus went from adults to children, not vice versa. If parents and students had as much clout as the teachers’ union, the district would find a way to offer in-person instruction with safety precautions, especially in elementary schools.
In one of the best understood and most enduring paradoxes of democratic politics, however, relatively small groups with a lot at stake tend to triumph over the general public’s more diffuse concerns. Hence the persistence of ethanol subsidies — and the priority given to teachers over students and reopening restaurants over reopening schools.
Restaurant owners and employees don’t get paid if they can’t come to work. Teachers do. And while restaurants suffer if they lose sit-down business, teachers get paid the same if they teach remotely. They may not like online teaching, but they don’t demand that schools find ways to reopen. Supermarkets and warehouses have to get the job done while protecting their staffs. Public schools don’t.