Teachers’ unions across the United States are resisting a push from the Trump administration and House Republicans to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, instead opting for remote learning that experts say presents major risks to children.
President Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut federal funding for schools that fail to reopen in the fall, echoing a recent bill proposed by Reps. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) and Tom Tiffany (R., Wisc.). Multiple states have followed suit—Florida announced Wednesday that it will require schools to hold in-person classes beginning in August, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D., Va.) in June unveiled a phased reopening plan for all public and private schools.
Many powerful teachers’ unions are pushing back against the drive to reopen. In Florida, Orange County Classroom Teachers Association president Wendy Doromal called the state’s reopening order “totally irresponsible” during a Wednesday CNN appearance. In Virginia, three teachers’ unions representing Fairfax County schools asked their members to choose an entirely remote learning option for the upcoming school year.
The union resistance to reopening is at odds with the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization in June released guidelines emphasizing the need for students to attend in-person classes this fall, citing the “considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality” associated with “lengthy time away from school.” Many students coming from low-income families rely on the meals and support services they receive in school. In addition, according to the AAP, the lack of in-person classes leads to “social isolation” that drives “child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation.”
Banks said that while teachers he’s spoken to acknowledge the necessity of in-person classes, their unions “have a different motivation.”