Americans side with teachers against GOP attacks over school closures

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Congressional Republicans have used the pandemic as another pretext for attacking teachers unions.

For weeks, congressional Republicans have lashed out at teachers and Democrats for prioritizing safety in determining how and when to fully return to in-person education.

A new poll shows a majority of Americans are not buying their latest attempt to demonize teachers.

According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday, 55% of American voters do not want to reopen schools until teachers have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Just 34% prefer to reopen schools immediately.

While studies have not found massive coronavirus spread in the classroom, especially when safety precautions are taken, outbreaks have occurred.

But some lawmakers have been claiming falsely that it is complete safe to reopen schools right away.

"The science is unequivocally clear: Schools are safe to reopen," tweeted Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) on Monday. "But instead of following the science, the Biden administration is caving to teachers' unions. This is irresponsible & unacceptable. #ReopenSchools."

"The Biden Administration needs to put kids first, not the teachers unions," said Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) on Sunday. "The science is clear: we need to reopen our schools now."

"@POTUS seems to have forgotten his campaign promise to 'follow the science.' Science says children can safely return to school, yet he is siding with corrupt teachers unions," tweeted Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) last Friday. "Democrats are bankrolled by the teachers unions, but our nation's schoolchildren should come first!"

"Yet another Democrat sides with a teachers' union over students and this time, ignores the advice of the CDC Director! Shame on Joe Biden," tweeted Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) on Feb. 5.

Republicans have sought for years to scapegoat public educators for the nation's ills, frequently targeting and working to crush teachers unions. The GOP platform includes language pushing for public funding for private schools and blasting Democrats' so-called efforts "to placate the leaders of the teachers’ unions."

But according to the results of the Morning Consult poll, 54% of voters trust local teachers unions to determine whether to reopen schools in the fall, with an equal percentage expressing trust for local school boards. Just 34% said they don't trust local unions "much" or "at all."

Half of those surveyed said they trust national teachers unions to make the call on reopening.

The survey also found just 21% of those polled gave congressional Republicans a "good" or "excellent" rating for their handling of the pandemic, compared to 69% who rated them "just fair" or "poor." Biden received 54% positive ratings and 41% negative for his response to the virus.

Polls conducted since the start of the pandemic continue to show that most Americans do not want to rush to reopen schools before it is safe to do so.

A poll conducted by the National Parents Union, a coalition of parents and advocacy organizations, in January found half of American parents believe widespread vaccination is "absolutely necessary" for them to feel safe about returning their kids to the classroom.

And 68% of parents and 77% of teachers polled in August and September 2020 by Hart Research Associates for the American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools said protecting the health of staff and students should be the top factor in determining when and how to resume in-person learning.

Despite the poll results, last week a group of House Republican doctors — and a few pretending to be physicians — signed a letter demanding President Joe Biden immediate reopen schools despite the ongoing pandemic. "Being Members of Congress with medical backgrounds and direct patient care experience," the 16 representatives wrote, "we remain concerned for the health and education of our children if they cannot return to the classroom."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.