The Corner


What Makes Public-School Teachers Different from Everyone Else?

(dolgachov/Getty Images)

I concur entirely with the NR staff editorial about the ongoing “ransom demands” from public-school teachers’ unions in a standoff about opening schools and getting kids back in classrooms. I have just one point to add.

The coronavirus pandemic took this country by surprise, and most school systems understandably struggled to put together a good plan once gathering kids in groups was deemed unacceptably risky. Most public-school districts tried “distance learning,” and it fails far too many kids, particularly among the most vulnerable. The physical and psychological health damage that school closures are doing to kids is terrifying. Meanwhile, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded, “Many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”

Many public-school teachers’ unions don’t want to come back into schools until everyone is vaccinated. Well, grocery-store clerks haven’t had that choice for the past year. Amazon-warehouse workers and delivery guys didn’t have that option. Police, fire, doctors, pharmacists, cashiers at CVS, Walgreens and Walmart and all the rest — just about everybody has had to figure out how to function in his job with a little bit of risk, wearing masks, socially distancing, and doing the best he can. Everybody carried on, because the work needed to be done.

All of us have had to live with a little bit of risk of getting the virus. We hope our masks work. We hope the person whose mask was below his nose and who came within six feet of us in the grocery aisle isn’t shedding viruses. Very few of us have the option to live our lives in a way that eliminates any risk of infection.

Teachers in private schools and open districts have had to figure out how to teach in a classroom in a way that minimizes risk. Airline pilots and flight attendants, members of the military, construction workers, meatpackers, oil-refinery workers . . . everybody else in society is just sucking it up, taking steps to mitigate the risk, and going about his job as best he can.

Why is it so unjust and unreasonable to ask public-school teachers to do the same?


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