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Follow the Science, Not the Teachers Unions

(Article originally appeared in Feb. 18 Wall Street Journal)


By: Chris Christie

Follow the science. That was Joe Biden’s promise to the American people—until Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers disagreed.

I spent much of my time as governor saying that we needed to put children and parents first in public education. The teachers union in New Jersey spent tens of millions of dollars to oppose my reform efforts and protect the status quo. As a result our per pupil costs were among the country’s highest, and families in many urban districts were held hostage by failure.

America’s public schools have mostly been closed to in-person learning for a year. Those that have opened are proving themselves to be relatively safe. In an article published Jan. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” of the coronavirus. Data from reopened classrooms don’t show the rapid spread that has been observed in congregate living facilities and high-density work sites.

The CDC researchers looked at more than 90,000 students in 11 North Carolina districts and found that only 32 students and staff members were infected in school. In the same period, 773 got infected outside school.

On Jan. 26 the science was made clear: Schools can reopen with appropriate safeguards. Then the teachers unions got involved and the CDC changed its tune.

Rochelle Walensky, the centers’ director, made the following admission at a Feb. 12 press conference: The CDC wouldn’t “follow the science.” Direct changes in the CDC’s guidance had been made as a result of consultation with teachers groups. To show how far the CDC had moved, Ms. Walensky said that even after everyone had been vaccinated the CDC still might not recommend that schools reopen normally.

If not then, when will they reopen? And why change positions after backing the science that showed significantly less community spread in schools than in the community at large?

Unions in California are demanding shots before returning to work and some say they may not return even after vaccination. How do we square that with the hundreds of thousands of essential workers who have continued to work through the pandemic despite the dangers?

Again adults are placing their own interests ahead of the interests of the children. It’s the unions and their leaders who are doing this, not the rank-and-file members. Numerous courageous teachers have spoken out against the union position.

Schools have reopened in Europe and some U.S. states, both red and blue, without any major outbreaks caused by in-school transmission. The CDC is being used as a political tool, flip-flopping on the science under pressure from the national unions and their Biden administration allies.

The unions pack a lot of financial muscle. I still have the bruises from my battles with them. But President Biden promised Americans an end to these games. This betrayal of our children and their families must end. The long-term mental-health effects and educational deficits created by continuing this policy will be devastating. It’s time to put our children’s interests first in this pandemic.