Children are perhaps the least vulnerable demographic of our population to the Covid pandemic, but they are being disproportionately harmed. Despite exceedingly low rates of infection and negligible mortality, children in many parts of the country are being forced to stay home from school. This is not based on science, but on partisan politics – and especially teachers’ unions.
Case in point is a recent report in The Wall Street Journal of New York Teachers Union chief, Michael Mulgrew, who told parents to brace for another round of school shutdowns. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio naturally complied with the teachers’ union chief’s directive. The rationale for this egregious interruption of education is based on the virus testing positive rate that neared the arbitrary threshold of 3%.
But the benchmark is based on the city population, not schools. Merely 0.074% of students have tested positive over the last two months, and only 0.0011% on November 11, the day of the order. That’s one in a hundred thousand children. If New York City’s 1,126,000 million student population was its own metro region, it would have among the lowest per-capita case rates in the U.S. Only 955 of the 150,000 or so public-school employees have tested positive since mid-September. Most evidence shows children are less likely to transmit the virus than adults, so schools are less likely to be sources of contagion than are the city’s restaurants or offices, which are still open.
Further evidence to support this conclusion comes from Brown University economics professor Emily Oster, who has been tracking virus cases at a sample of schools with more than three million students and 422,000 staff. She reports there have been substantially fewer cases among students and teachers than among local populations. But this makes no difference to teachers’ unions.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board concludes what should be obvious to everyone – children are the last priority of teachers’ unions. This is demonstrated by their ferocious fight to block charter school expansions and to keep bad teachers in classrooms. Reams of data show that closing schools in the spring has cost students substantially.
What is the impact of the pandemic on the education of children?
A recent Stanford University study of 19 states estimates that students lost on average between 57 to 183 days of learning in reading and 136 to 232 days in math during the spring closures. New York City students lost 122 days in reading and 209 days in math – essentially a year of education in a few months.
These losses in days of education have been quantified by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in estimating lost future wages. They estimate that lower education quality during schools’ closures “costs current students between $12,000 and $15,000 in future earnings, varying by age. By October 1, 2020, we project students in grades 1-12 had lost between $43,000 and $57,000, or 4 to 5 percent of their lifetime wage earnings.”
Don’t expect this to get better under a Biden presidency. Jill Biden is a member of the NEA teachers’ union and Joe Biden has already declared to the teachers’ unions, “When we win this election, we’re going to get the support you need and the respect you deserve. You don’t just have a partner in the White House, you’ll have an NEA member in the White House. And if I’m not listening, I’m going to be sleeping alone in the Lincoln Bedroom.”
The education of our children is the future of our country. That future has taken a serious hit with the election of a president who is sympathetic to teachers’ unions. It’s not a good time to be a child.
(Note: The New York City schools closed on November 19th when they reached the 3% positivity rate.)