GOP 'celebrates educators' after attacking them for months over school reopenings

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Republican lawmakers tweeted in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day.

Several congressional Republicans tweeted out tributes to educators on Tuesday to mark National Teacher Appreciation Day. But over the past several months, many of those same lawmakers have viciously attacked teachers for wanting to make sure schools reopened safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Today, on #NationalTeachersDay, we are grateful for our educators who devote their time and energy to teaching the next generation," tweeted Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. "Thank you for all you do for the future of the Volunteer State!"

"America's teachers are heroes who work tirelessly to give our children the opportunity to learn, grow and chase their dreams," wrote Florida Sen. Rick Scott. "On #TeacherAppreciationDay, we honor educators in Florida and across the nation. To all that teach, thank you!"

"On #TeacherAppreciationDay, we celebrate educators in Missouri and across the country who inspire our children. Please #ThankATeacher today," urged Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

"Happy #TeacherAppreciationWeek!" tweeted Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama. "Despite facing incredible challenges over the last year, educators went above and beyond to ensure students received a quality education. Thank you to all of our teachers in #AL02!"

A wide array of other House and Senate Republicans posted similar sentiments of appreciation.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic forced numerous school systems to switch to remote learning last year, it has been an official GOP caucus position to demand an immediate return to fully in-person instruction and to attack teachers for standing in their way.

The House Republican caucus put out a Feb. 18 statement complaining that teachers unions "continue to put roadblocks in the way of reopening schools, despite the fact that the Director of the CDC and Dr. [Anthony] Fauci have both said that teachers being vaccinated are not a prerequisite for having students physically back in the classroom."

"Democrats Side With Teachers' Unions Against Students," said a Senate GOP press release on Feb. 4.

Blunt is quoted in that release saying, "The science confirms schools can and should reopen safely. Unfortunately, despite President Biden's pledge to reopen schools within his first 100 days, the administration is bending to the will of politically-connected teachers unions."

Scott penned a March 15 Wall Street Journal letter to the editor that ran under the heading "Unions, Not Money, Keep Our Schools Closed."

Blackburn groused in February, "Biden's policies are for the teachers unions, not for the kids in the classroom."

As recently as Monday, Moore tweeted, "Biden isn't following the science, he's following teachers unions. Shameful. Put students first. Reopen schools."

Teachers unions have urged that schools be reopened, but not without social distancing, masking, ventilation, and vaccinations to protect teachers, staff, and students.

Their concern about returning unsafely to crowded schools is not unfounded. School systems across the country have had outbreaks of coronavirus cases. A study released in February by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teachers may drive transmission in schools more than students.

To date, according to Education Week, at least 933 active and retired K-12 educators and staff have died from COVID-19.

Polls showed most Americans side with teachers, opposing the GOP's national one-size-fits-all demand to immediately reopen every school for fully in-person learning.

Contrary to the GOP's false claims, about half of American elementary and middle schools have already fully returned to in-person learning. About 80% of them have at least partial in-person instruction.

Thanks to Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which every single House and Senate Republican opposed, more than $100 billion has been allocated to help schools more safely reopen; $81 billion from the plan has already been distributed to states "for immediate use this spring and planning ahead for summer and beyond."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.