The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Reopen Schools
—Safely!

Jul 27, 2020

Last week the C.D.C. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), under pressure from President Trump, reversed itself by issuing a statement backing the Trump administration’s rush to reopen schools. It falsely described children as being at low risk for contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Studies have shown that children 10 or older can contract and spread the virus as easily as adults.

The C.D.C. is absolutely correct when it says that children do better when in school, with regular social contact with other kids and with their teachers.

Staying home indefinitely is clearly not an answer, and every parent knows this. The question is HOW to open schools. The C.D.C. suggests “resources and tools” for schools to reopen. These guidelines were actually useful, recommending masking for everyone, smaller class sizes for social distancing, and using outdoor spaces whenever possible. They also recommended regular cleaning and testing, with contact tracing for anyone testing positive.

So, the C.D.C. knows full well what is needed—but their push to reopen schools pretends that it’s not necessary! The message seems to be, “it’s better to get students and staff in schools—no matter what the risk.”

A real solution is actually very clear: enact ALL of the C.D.C. guidelines and more, BEFORE a single child or adult steps into a school. It can be done NOW, to prepare for the next school year. It’s not rocket science: hire more teachers. Open more classrooms and schools, so that students can be in smaller groups. Hire and retrain the unemployed to be custodial staff, healthcare staff and counseling staff, to keep schools clean and test and trace everyone regularly. Keep the schools stocked with the supplies–both cleaning and medical–to make all of this possible.

No, that’s not hard at all. And in fact, it’s what educators have argued for decades, long before COVID-19 became a threat. All it takes is money. And the money is there to do all of this, to transform every single school district in the country into one that teaches all of its kids well, AND safely. But what have we seen instead? For decades, we’ve watched as school budgets have been slashed—even as corporations have paid less and less in taxes while their profits have gone through the roof.

True, some parents have other options. Parents with money can choose to send their kids to private schools. The private schools that will open full time in the fall have large enough campuses, where their students can spread out. They are buying equipment to test regularly and ensure students’ safety, such as thermal scanners to measure students’ and school workers’ temperatures. And they are hiring more campus workers to make sure the health and safety measures they are taking can be carried out.

AND, these private schools are making sure they have enough teachers to keep class sizes small, typically around 12—that’s about one-third the number of students public schools have typically been cramming into one classroom in working-class neighborhoods!

Republicans have largely backed Trump on opening schools quickly, while Democrats have spoken much more cautiously about opening more slowly and more partially. But neither party is talking about releasing the tidal wave of funds necessary to be able to reopen quickly AND safely for everyone. This is absolutely necessary for working class parents—but absolutely unthinkable for the politicians and the wealthy class they serve.

Working people have the power to do something about that, to insist that the wealth of this society—the wealth that WE create—goes to actually benefit ALL the people in society.

It will take a big fight. But the working class has the power to make that fight, and the next generation’s future depends on it. And, to quote one orange president, “What do we have to lose?”

Our lives, and our children’s lives, are at stake.