NY Times Opinion: School closures have been an epic disaster for children (and Democrats are to blame)

There must be something in the water over at the NY Times. Yesterday they published an excellent piece debunking the identity politics clown show at Smith College and they also published this Nicholas Kristof opinion piece blaming Democrats for the ongoing disaster of school closures.

The blunt fact is that it is Democrats — including those who run the West Coast, from California through Oregon to Washington State — who have presided over one of the worst blows to the education of disadvantaged Americans in history. The result: more dropouts, less literacy and numeracy, widening race gaps, and long-term harm to some of our most marginalized youth.

The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank this month estimated that educational disruptions during this pandemic may increase the number of high school dropouts over 10 years by 3.8 percent, while also reducing the number of college-educated workers in the labor force. This will shrink the incomes of Americans for 70 years, until the last of today’s students leave the work force, the bank said…

“We have to acknowledge that there is a large percentage of kids that have ‘disappeared’ — students who have never logged in, or logged in and never fully engaged,” said Melissa Connelly, chief executive of OneGoal, a nonprofit that does outstanding work with low-income high school students…

“The evidence on remote learning suggests that despite the best efforts of teachers it doesn’t work for a large share of kids,” said Emily Oster, a Brown University economist who has studied the issue. “I think we’ve deprioritized children in a way that will do long-term damage.”

Kristof indirectly takes aim at teacher’s unions who are the main group resisting the reopening of schools (more on that in a moment). He cites an editorial from the British Medical Journal titled “Closing schools is not evidence based and harms children.” There’s also this report from Tulane University:

Our results suggest that school reopenings have not increased COVID-19 hospitalizations, especially for the 75 percent of counties that had the lowest baseline

The underlying assumption of COVID-19 school decision-making has been that opening up schools to in-person instruction would benefit students and parents in many ways, but at a cost of spreading the virus and harming teachers and the community as a whole. While we find evidence that this trade-off exists in counties with already high virus transmission, we do not find evidence of such a trade-off for the majority of school districts…

Kristof points out that despite the evidence some teachers are suggesting they won’t return to schools even if they are vaccinated. “That’s an abdication of responsibility to America’s children,” he concludes.

There’s a lot to like about this piece but there are still a couple of obvious problems with it. For one, it blames Democrats generally but doesn’t quite single out teacher’s unions which are the main source of opposition to reopening, with or without the vaccine. Yes, it’s true that Democrats are responsible for this problem at every level, but it’s also true that some Democratic mayors and governors have been doing their best, even suing school districts to light a fire under them and the unions. The word union never appears in the piece, which is very odd.

Secondly, Kristof also fails to mention one particular Democrat who is heavily involved in this mess. The president and his chief of staff and his spokeswoman have all been tap dancing around this topic for weeks, giving cover to the unions who are abdicating their responsibility to American children. The data on safety is in and the need of students is great. This is the moment the president should be cranking the bully pulpit up to full volume and saying all the things that Nick Kristof says in this column. The fact that the White House is not doing that means its not just teacher’s unions who are abdicating their responsibility to America’s children, it’s President Biden as well.

That probably won’t change until the NY Times can’t find a columnist brave enough to pin the blame where it really belongs.