Put Students First

February 19, 2021
Weekly Column

I am proud to be a South Dakotan. As a father with three sons in public school, I’m grateful they have an opportunity each day to go to class in-person. Too many school children across this country aren’t being given that opportunity, and it’s a shame.

Study after study has shown that children being forced to learn remotely are falling behind students attending school in-person. The impact of those decisions will be felt for years to come.

President Biden promised Americans he would have schools reopened in the first 100 days of his presidency. However, America is one month into his tenure and he’s walking back this promise.

His new watered-down approach? Fifty percent of classrooms, in-person one day a week. One. Day. A. Week. That’s an absurd proposal. So absurd, he even reversed course on that plan this week.

Science and data have been the driving forces behind decisions made by the CDC and local governments, but apparently, science and data are irrelevant when push comes to shove and the national teachers union get involved.

The Biden Administration has stressed schools cannot open until they have more funding – but that doesn’t pass the smell test. Congress has already allocated $68 billion for K-12 schools to increase safety protocols and only a fraction of that money has been spent.

According to the CDC, “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” Last week, the CDC released long-awaited guidance that schools can be reopened safely if masks are worn and social distancing is practiced. South Dakota schools have been following this practice since last fall, and in Mitchell, there have been very few cases linked to in-person learning. I am grateful South Dakota’s schools are open and our teachers aren’t letting our students fall by the wayside, but other states aren’t so lucky.

Frankly, like many parents, I’m frustrated. Frustrated at the unions for putting themselves before our children, frustrated at the high-rate of mental health issues young children now face, frustrated for the students falling further behind, and frustrated that one million American mothers have left the workforce in the past year.

I know many of America’s teachers are just as frustrated as the parents and children facing uncertainty with never-ending remote learning – teachers and students want to be back in the classroom. The overwhelming majority of open schools in South Dakota are making wise decisions and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 – President Biden promised he’d lead efforts to open schools. It’s time he fulfils that promise.