Senate Democrats Vote To Keep Schools Closed

Given The Opportunity To Support In-Person Instruction In American K-12 Schools This Fall, Not A Single Senate Democrat Would Vote To Ensure Schools Are Open

All 50 Senate Democrats voted against Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) amendment to ensure elementary and secondary schools are open for in-person learning. (S.Amdt.3073, S.Con.Res.14, Roll Call Vote #324: Rejected 49-50: D 0-48; R 49-0; I 0-2; 8/10/2021)

SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “For months, science has confirmed that schools are remarkably safe and do not surge transmission of the virus. This Administration’s own experts amplified this before liberal politics got in the way…. [I]nstead of calling for schools to reopen right now, the President endorsed Big Labor’s moving goalposts. He said that because the Democrats passed their spending plan, and because he’s tried to move teachers toward the front of the line for vaccines, now schools can move toward re-opening. This approach has put liberal interest-group politics ahead of vulnerable kids and their parents…. Every day that the Biden Administration does not urge schools to reopen safely right now with simple precautions, it hurts kids who cannot afford these moving goalposts.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 3/15/2021)

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): “In over a year of uncertainty and the pain of living through a pandemic, I have to admit, I’m shocked that I have to come down here to talk about the importance of quality, in-person education. Today we are debating a $4 trillion tax and spending bill. And that’s on top of the $2 trillion we spent in March and the $4 trillion we spent last year. How insane is it that with all that spending, there’s still no guarantee that our kids will be back in school this fall? The sad reality is more than 1 million kids did not enroll in their local schools during the pandemic. Thanks to labor union bosses and their unneeded and damaging school shutdowns, kids have been kept out of school and many—far too many—have suffered psychologically. For our children’s sake, I urge all my colleagues to vote YES on my amendment and to join me in ensuring our children are no longer confined to virtual learning.” (Sen. Tim Scott, Remarks, 8/10/2021)


Despite CDC Guidance In January Saying Schools Could Reopen Safely With Precautions, The Biden Administration Refused To Take On Teachers’ Unions

Less Than A Week Into The Biden Administration, The CDC Released A Study Saying With Care And Proper Precautions Schools Can Reopen Safely

“Schools operating in person have seen scant transmission of the coronavirus, particularly when masks and distancing are employed … researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in papers published Tuesday. The CDC team reviewed data from studies in the United States and abroad and found the experience in schools differed from nursing homes and high-density work sites where rapid spread has occurred. ‘The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring,’ wrote three CDC researchers in a viewpoint piece published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. ‘There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.’ (“CDC Finds Scant Spread Of Coronavirus In Schools With Precautions In Place,” The Washington Post, 1/26/2021)

  • “‘The conclusion here is with proper prevention efforts ... we can keep transmission in schools and educational settings quite low,’ said Margaret A. Honein, the lead author of the JAMA report. ‘We didn’t know that at the beginning of the year but the data has really accumulated.’ … Still, Honein said, even in places with high infection rates, there is no evidence that schools will transmit the virus at rates that are any higher than those seen in the general community. She said they can operate safely as long as precautions are employed…. ‘With good prevention, we can safely reopen and keep open more schools,’ said Honein, lead for the CDC State and Local Health Department Covid Task Force.” (“CDC Finds Scant Spread Of Coronavirus In Schools With Precautions In Place,” The Washington Post, 1/26/2021)

But The Biden Administration Refused To Take On The Teachers’ Unions To Get Schools Open Sooner

“President Biden made it clear… that he is not blaming teachers and their unions for schools remaining closed during the coronavirus pandemic, telling reporters at the White House that reopening is ‘complicated’ and that all the teachers he knows want to get back to their classrooms. At a time when the Chicago Teachers Union is refusing an order by district and city officials for educators to return to their classrooms, Biden said that districts should prioritize fixing ventilation systems, securing sufficient personal protective equipment and establishing coronavirus testing systems. … Asked by one reporter how the president defines his message of ‘unity,’ Biden talked about Americans coming together to solve problems, including reopening schools. He said people know ‘we have to do something about figuring out how to get children back in school,’ and he rejected blaming teachers and their unions.” (“Biden: I Don’t Blame Teachers Or Their Unions For Schools Staying Closed,” The Washington Post, 1/25/2021)

“Following weeks of standoff in some cities and states where teachers unions are demanding vaccines as a condition of reopening, the issue came to a head Wednesday when Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said vaccination of teachers ‘is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.’ But in a juggling of positions, the White House declined to back Walensky, saying she was speaking ‘in her personal capacity.’ Asked [February 5th] about her earlier comments, Walensky punted.” (“School Reopening Debate Tests Biden’s Ties With Teachers Unions,” The Associated Press, 2/05/2021)

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD: “Mr. Biden figured that his support for the teachers union agenda, along with more money, would get the unions to reopen the schools. Instead he’s discovering what America’s parents have learned in the last year: Unions run the schools, and no one—not parents, not school districts, not mayors, and not even a new Democratic President—will tell them what to do…. This really is one of the great scandals of the pandemic…. If Mr. Biden really wants to lead, he’d use his bully pulpit to say school districts that don’t reopen classrooms won’t get the money.” (Editorial, “The Teachers Unions Roll Over Biden,” The Wall Street Journal, 2/10/2021)


Teachers' Unions Are Still Hesitant About Whether They’ll Fully Reopen For In-Person Instruction

The American Federation Of Teachers President Dodged On Reopening Schools, Saying, ‘We’re Going To Try To Open Up Schools’

“American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten was ripped after hedging on whether or not U.S. schools would reopen in the fall during a Wednesday interview on MSNBC. While having previously recommended that fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed guidance following the spread of the new Delta variant of the virus, announcing that vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors and suggesting universal masking in schools.  Weingarten called the guidance a ‘curveball,’ before suggesting that school reopenings this fall are not a done deal. ‘So the bottom line is, we're going to keep kids safe, we're going to keep our members safe, we're going to try to open up schools, and we're going to move through this political battlefield,’ Weingarten said.” (“Randi Weingarten Ripped After Telling MSNBC 'We're Going To Try' To Reopen Schools After CDC Mask Guidance,” Fox News, 7/29/2021)

The Chicago Teachers Union Wants COVID Prevalence Criteria ‘To Pause In-Person Instruction’

CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: “[O]ur school communities need more than masking to ensure safety — especially as we continue to learn about the Delta variant. Also needed are: Ventilation upgrades[;] A COVID-19 testing plan for vaccinated and unvaccinated members of our school communities[;] Maintenance of criteria and health metrics based on COVID prevalence to pause in-person instruction[;] Full-time contact tracers, nurses, social workers and counselors in every school building[;] A comprehensive home visit program to engage students and families in every school community” (Chicago Teachers Union, Letter To Mayor Lightfoot, The Chicago Board of Education, Et Al, 08/04/2021)


Reminder: Democrats In The Spring Refused To Condition Extra Money For Schools On Those Schools Returning To In-Person Instruction

ABC NEWS’ JONATHAN KARL: “Does the president support the idea of making that funding in the America Rescue Plan contingent on schools reopening? So a requirement, you receive funding, you bring students back.”
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JEN PSAKI: “That’s not a contingency that we’re putting in -- that we’re recommending to go in the bill or in legislation, Jon.” (ABC’s “This Week,” 2/21/2021)

All 50 Senate Democrats voted against the Republican amendment to ensure that school reopening dollars are going to support in-person learning, conditioning funding on schools reopening. (S.Amdt. 1026 to S.Amdt. 891, H.R. 1319, Roll Call Vote #80: Rejected 48-51: D 0-48; R 48-1; I 0-2, 3/06/2021)



Related Issues: COVID-19, Senate Democrats, Education