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GOP’s Latest Wedge Issue: School Re-Opening

February 13, 2021

Yesterday’s NYTimes had an article by Carl Hulse titled “Republicans Seize on Shuttered Schools as Rallying Cry“. The GOP has  hopes of using school reopening as a wedge issue… but it seems to me that without too much effort the Democrats could easily turn this around. How? By asking these questions:

  • Will the GOP support mandatory vaccinations for children who return to school?
  • Will the GOP support schools who discipline children and parents who fail to comply with mandatory mask wearing?
  • Will the GOP provide funds to ensure that ALL schools have basics like soap and running water, sound HVAC systems, and extra funding for masks, hand sanitizer and nurses.
  • Will the GOP provide more funds for State and local governments so that they can avoid having to make budget cuts?
  • Will the GOP support public schools who require that parents bring their children to school even if the parents are fearful of having them attend? Or, stated more positively, will they fund the resources schools need to woo reluctant parents pack to school?
  • Last, but clearly not least, will the CDC fully support the recommendations advanced by the CDC for school reopening? Those recommendations, issued yesterday, will be discussed in future posts… and the cost for implementing this recommendations will surely be a bone of contention in the coming weeks as Congress debates the pandemic aid package the President has proposed?

And those last question could be an achilles heel should the GOP hope to drive a wedge, for they want to characterize the school closures as “unions vs. teachers”, a notion that is preposterous given that the majority of teachers in the country are NOT union members and a sizable minority of parents are NOT eager to send their children back to school. These paragraphs from an article profiling union leader Randi Weingarten need to be kept in mind if the GOP wants to use openings as a wedge issue:

And like teachers, many parents do not feel ready to return students to classrooms. In big cities with partially open schools, like New York and Washington, D.C., the majority of families offered in-person seats have declined them.

Black, Latino and Asian parents have been especially likely to opt out, both because the virus has disproportionately affected communities of color, and because they may have less confidence than white parents that their children’s needs will be met in public schools.

Reopening COULD be a wedge issue… but not in the way the GOP is envisioning now. They could end up being hoist on their own petard if they are unwilling to fully provide the funds needed to ensure the SAFE return of ALL children to school.

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