President Joe Biden's bid for school reopenings falls headlong against his promise to help teachers who, before returning to schools, are urging more COVID-19 monitoring, vaccines, and other safety initiatives.
The CDC will release guidelines for school reopenings
As Biden nudges schools to welcome more students back to class, the President has promised to follow science while still receiving strong support from teachers and their unions. On the administration's first full day in office, First Lady Jill Biden, a teacher herself, invited the two top teachers' unions' heads to the White House, Bloomberg reported.
Yet the patriotism could be reviewed as soon as this week when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release comprehensive guidelines for schools looking to reopen. School leaders worldwide attempted to bring teachers back in classes until more or almost half of them are vaccinated, citing research findings, including work by the CDC, suggesting the likelihood of transmission on campuses is low.
In the first 100 days, the administration vowed to reopen 50% of U.S. schools at least one day a week-a target that could have been achieved. However, progressing well beyond that aim could be stalled by delays in Congress on a new pandemic assistance package, the recent emergence of new, more infectious coronavirus strains, or teacher union opposition which Biden has guaranteed a place at the table.
Arne Duncan, who served as education secretary in the Obama administration, said the need for school reopenings is desperate. "For any electoral gain, Biden is not doing this. He will possibly take a political hit for this, in fact. He's doing this because the best thing to do is to do so."
For months, the battle over reopening schools has simmered, often separating administrators and parents, worrying that their kids are falling behind in distant schooling academically, against teachers concerned about their welfare. Although the Democrats' preparations for a comprehensive new assistance program are poised to unleash a school-focused spending surge, several states are prepared to reopen long before the money starts to arrive.
In Chicago, for example, after a bitter conflict between teachers and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the teachers' union voted early Wednesday to support a "tentative agreement" on returning to in-person teaching, CBS News reported.
According to data gathered by the EdWeek journal, vaccines are a significant issue. The agreement guarantees a limited amount of doses for teachers, who have been given preference in just about half the states. The arrangement also provides guarantees for COVID-19 testing, ventilation, and allocation of masks as well as gloves.
Teachers in Los Angeles are in dispute with lawmakers and health authorities over proposals to restart the community's coronavirus uncontrolled spread.
"When Governor Gavin Newsom says schools are safe to reopen without vaccines, he should also tell us what he thinks a safe number of associated deaths would be," President Cecily Myart-Cruz of United Teachers Los Angeles said last week.
Biden administration sparked conflicts on school reopenings
According to The Hill, the Biden administration sent confusing signals about when and how to expect schools' reopening. The White House often seemed to downplay messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as per The Hill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried to minimize the CDC's report that classified schools as low-transmission coronavirus areas.
Psaki also brushed aside CDC chief Rochelle Walensky for suggesting research supports that teachers could return to classrooms before they have been vaccinated.
At one point, when she said that teachers being vaccinated should not be a requirement for returning to in-person schooling, Psaki said Walensky was talking in her "personal capacity."