The Corner

Politics & Policy

Reporters to Parents Frustrated at Ongoing School Closures: Republicans Are Weaponizing You

School buses remain unused while schools are closed in San Francisco, Calif., April 7, 2020. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Americans parents are growing increasingly frustrated that schools across the country remain closed for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many places, public schools in particular appear prepared to maintain virtual-only learning with no end in sight. Here in Virginia, one public-school district proposed to reopen next month for two days a week by hiring monitors to watch students take virtual lessons in a classroom while their teachers remain at home.

This, despite the fact that the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that it’s safe to reopen schools for in-person instruction with the help of safety precautions and that schools pose among the lowest risks for COVID-19 transmission.

In a piece for Vox yesterday, infectious-disease physician and epidemiologist Benjamin P. Linas writes that, even though he’s a long-time supporter of organized labor and though he sympathizes with the concerns of teachers, he’s losing patience with teachers’ unions, the primary culprit in holding up a safe return to classrooms.

“If educators and their unions don’t embrace the established science, they risk continuing to widen gaps in educational attainment — and losing the support of their many long-time allies, like me,” Linas says. “. . . as we approach the one-year anniversary of remote education in America, I find that I am losing sympathy for the educators’ position and their myopic vision this far along into the pandemic. We can open schools safely, and we have the evidence in hand to prove it.”

In spite of these wholly legitimate observations, echoing the complaints of parents across the country and across the political spectrum, media outlets have decided that the real story is the nefarious Republican Party, which allegedly is “weaponizing” anguished parents against the Democrats.

This morning, an ostensibly reported piece in Politico bore the absurd headline, “GOP tries to weaponize pandemic-exhausted parents against Biden,” insinuating at length that Republicans are unfairly pinning blame for school closures on the Biden administration.

“Republicans see room to capitalize on the grim public health and economic situation the White House inherited from Donald Trump by trying to put Democrats on the defensive for being too removed from the pain or too slow-moving to address it,” the reporters note. “GOP lawmakers, while offering no commitment to meaningfully engage on policy proposals, have responded to continued school closures by striking hard at Biden and Democrats, with more Republicans each week accusing the administration of scaling back their ambitious goals on everything from testing to school reopenings.”

Politico’s report focuses not on parents’ legitimate gripes at the unions, not on experts who say reopening can be done safely, not on the successes that private schools have had in doing just that. Instead, it homes in on that omnipresent media message: “Republicans pounce!”

And this approach isn’t exclusive to Politico. A few days ago, Roll Call published an article entitled “Aiming to win back suburban voters, GOP targets Democrats over closed schools,” pointing out that Republicans “have seized on the issue of school reopenings in an effort to woo suburban voters who turned against the party during the Trump era.”

The piece went on to quote a staffer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who adroitly observes that perhaps GOP lawmakers are targeting Democrats over school closures to distract from QAnon’s supposed takeover of the Republican Party.

As with Politico’s report, the story focuses neither on school closures nor on the increasingly unreasonable explanations for the delays in following CDC safety guidance to reopen. Rather, Roll Call trains its sights on those dastardly Republicans, who would dare to suggest to unhappy parents that perhaps Democrats bowing and scraping to the teachers’ unions might be part of the problem.

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