Across the United States, thousands of children are being deprived of in-person education.
For students who are currently COVID-positive, this makes sense—just as a student with the flu should not be in class. However, for a great many, the denial to attend school in person is the result of unreasonable standards, like lengthy exposure quarantines. And for others, it’s because of school-wide closures forced upon students by teachers’ unions and their reckless demands.
Schools can and should take commonsense steps to protect teachers and students, just like Florida’s schools have done. But it is clear that keeping kids out of school does more harm than good.
The evidence is relatively unanimous that COVID-19 is of little risk to children and young people, and that the new omicron variant is proving to be less dangerous than previous strains. On the contrary, the data is equally consistent that the disruption associated with quarantines, social isolation, and school closures has been disastrous for our kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared a "National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health" in response to "soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality." Moreover, the average student is several months behind in terms of learning standards, and pandemic measures have exacerbated racial disparities in educational achievement.
Meanwhile, Chicago teacher union representatives huddled together last week to advocate for remote learning. Apparently, learning cannot be done in-person, but political advocacy must be. The hypocrisy on display is astounding.
In light of these facts, it’s an outrage that COVID-19 relief funding is being funneled into schools that do not offer in-person instruction whatsoever. Congress authorized the government to help schools reopen safely and return kids to normal. These schools face a lot of difficulties, and they deserve the American people’s support. But schools mandating remote learning do not.
It’s simple: If an institution isn’t bearing the costs associated with reopening and continued in-person instruction, why does it need money from the government? Taxpayer dollars should not be spent financing lackluster Zoom sessions, Google Meets, and a host of other absurd virtual teaching experiments.
That is why I introduced the Keep Kids in Schools Act of 2022. The bill would prohibit COVID-19 relief funds from going to remote-only schools. For the sake of our children, I hope this is something my colleagues in the Senate—Republicans and Democrats alike—can agree on.
President Joe Biden said that "schools should remain open." That was fine political punditry, but it’s time to back it with action. The president too should support my bill, and he should tell teachers’ unions across the nation to stand down.
COVID-19 has inflicted severe damage on the United States, but we are duty-bound to weigh the costs and benefits of any choice. Keeping kids out of school presents more costs to American families than offering in-person instruction. That has always been the case, but it is impossible to deny now.
As terrible as the pandemic has been for adults, closures and social isolation are permanently harmful for the next generation. The adults of today cannot jeopardize America’s future in a futile effort to turn the clock back to the lockdowns of April 2020.