The absurdity of continued school closings

By Ray Nothstine

Raleigh, NC – Public education has a lot of problems these days. Its greatest asset to many families — that it’s primarily an instrument of child care and convenience for working and middle-class families — has been stripped away by partisan politics. In large parts of North Carolina and the nation, teacher unions and not health officials call the shots on the fate of school reopenings. Yet, public sympathy now wanes for schools that remain shuttered, and why shouldn’t that be the case? Particularly given the moving goalposts are causing even Democrat governors to lose their patience with the quixotic reopening statements from union reps and education officials.

A recent AP story that cites comments out of Durham points to the possibility of keeping schools closed into the fall academic year.

‘“We have no illusions that COVID will be eradicated by the time the start of the school year comes up,”’ said William “Chip” Sudderth III, a spokesman for Durham schools. Students there have been out of school buildings since March.

When government workers act against the people and the common good, they are made expendable.

For many families of students, that has to be another eye-roll type statement for those that can remember “15 days to flatten the curve” from last March. The vast majority of parents know, too, that everybody from the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and state health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen all support an opening of in-person instruction.

The statement from Durham highlights the ever-changing goalposts on the contentious issue. Eradication of COVID-19 has now become the lingo or a measurement for in-person instruction in some districts. Even Polio is not eradicated 100% worldwide.

Something else parents are aware of today in areas where their public schools are closed, lots of private schools are fully open with very little to no problems. Private schools are dependent on the market — meaning tuition dollars — which incentivizes responding to the needs and aspirations of a paying customer. Many upper-income families are at a tremendous advantage if they can bypass an unresponsive educational industrial complex. Still, wealthier families that utilize their well-funded public schools are now hostage to the whims of educational unions.

One popular social media thread representing a well-to-do community in Minnesota highlights the destructive loss of learning families face by perpetual school by the screen. “There were parents who said they’d never seen their kids dark or hopeless or unhappy — and I believe it, their suburb is the Shangri-La of Minnesota — til last year,” wrote novelist Anna Bauer. “They described girls who hid in their rooms and cried and boys falling so far behind they might never catch up.” At the end of depicting a lengthier desperate and sad saga that torments so many families, Baur recommends readers actually move to states where schools are open, “but tell” the governor “when you do.” 

In North Carolina, regardless of politics, the opening of schools feels like one of those seminal moments that cry for leadership. Republicans in the General Assembly passed a bipartisan bill to reopen schools that will go to conference over the weekend because of changes made in the House. Yet, the News & Observer reports that Gov. Roy Cooper, who has spent his entire tenure as governor championing the agenda of the NCAE, is expected to veto the bill.

If the saga continues much longer, parents will know that closings have essentially turned into a de facto strike propagated by union and union like organizations. “Never let a good crisis go to waste” is almost solely known as a political adage today. In 1981, when government-employed air traffic controllers did not get every single one of their demands during negotiations they staged an illegal strike. To the shock of many, President Reagan fired them. Of course, nobody is calling for any teachers or educational bureaucrats to be fired, but the infamous PATCO strike offered an important lesson for today: When government workers act against the people and the common good, they are made expendable.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor at Carolina Journal.