The CDC takes orders from the teachers' unions

Last year opened my eyes to the power of the teachers' union to conspire with the CDC to craft policy to derail opening schools.

My state, California, has been dead last among 50 states in reopening schools because Gov. Gavin Newsom has implemented every CDC school recommendation.  Schools have offered fewer than 40% of students in-person instruction.  Reopenings have been thwarted with onerous preconditions and mitigation measures, serving to either decrease teacher workload or increase teacher remuneration.

How do we know that the unions are working with the CDC?  After local school boards laid plans to qualify for $2 million in grant money for reopening, the unions' push for six-foot social distancing put the brakes on real in-person schooling.  Emails released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showed significant teachers' union influence over CDC guidelines.

Although the CDC originally recommended that schools reopen without preconditions, conversations between the CDC and union bosses led to adding union qualifiers verbatim in the final CDC document.

While they claim to want students back at school, CDC director Rochelle Walensky reinforces keeping schools closed in "red zones" (where 99% of students reside) and secondary schools: "If you're in middle school or high school, we would advocate for virtual learning for that group."

At each step, unions requested delays to add mitigation — prioritize teachers vaccination for school safety, delay six more weeks to get teachers fully vaccinated, and process exemptions for fully vaccinated teachers "with documented high-risk conditions for COVID-19."  By including household members' health status in approving medical exemptions, 10–20% of teachers received exemptions to continue remote work.  Despite Biden's promise for a full reopening of schools in his first 100 days, the reality (with teachers' unions' control) turned into "teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100."

Need more evidence of collusion?  In May 2021, the CDC reversed guidance on masks after intervention from the National Education Association (NEA).  On May 13, the CDC recommended that vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear masks indoors or outdoors.  After the NEA criticized the CDC for failing to "do the right thing by maintaining mitigation measures" on masking, the CDC released updated guidelines on May 15 to mandate "indoor masking for all individuals aged 2+ ... regardless of vaccination status."  Essentially, the CDC requested that outside the medical setting, the only people forced to wear masks all day are children at school — preschool and K–12.

After 12 months of remote school, about 10% of students failed to show up for online learning, and across the U.S., the Ds and Fs roughly doubled over previous years.  To cover up for learning losses from 2020 to 2021, California Gov. Newsom signed AB104 to allow seniors and juniors in jeopardy of not graduating to graduate using the state minimum standards rather than their district standards.  In another move to escape measuring learning loss, the state Board of Education waived requirements for local school districts to administer standardized tests to students and also eliminated two teacher credentialing exams.  He also signed AB130 to mandate a remote independent study option for all TK–12 public schools.  Although 30% opted for full remote last year, the opt-in rate was closer to 1% this year.

Teachers' unions have been pushing a policy of routine testing of asymptomatic students, which was introduced as a key mitigation measure against outbreaks, a program that is costly, labor-intensive, and low-yield.  The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) started this school year with weekly routine asymptomatic testing, and in the first month of school, 7,995 students tested positive (0.5% positivity rate among students), and 1,193 staffers tested positive (0.7% positivity rate).  The cost for 500,000 weekly tests is estimated at $350 million compared to $106 million spent on testing last year, which didn't result in opening campuses any earlier than school districts without testing and had few positives.

Testing asymptomatic children to determine if they can stay at school makes no sense.  With a yield of 0.5% at a cost of $350 million, better to ask any child with a fever, cough, runny nose, loss of taste, or other respiratory symptoms to stay home.

The testing policy causes a multiplicative tsunami when an asymptomatic positive case triggers quarantine of asymptomatic close contacts in every class.  Per CDC guidelines, students must self-isolate for ten days after a positive test, and an unvaccinated exposure (anyone unmasked within six feet of a positive case for 15+ minutes per day) must quarantine for 14 days.

In addition to the 7,995 who tested positive at LAUSD, 30,000 additional people were told to quarantine, of which 63 later tested positive, yielding a secondary positivity rate of 0.2%.  The Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) has already called for a switch to remote schooling after two positive cases "caused" 400 students to be quarantined in one school.

The onerous rules, which have sent thousands of asymptomatic close contacts home, is disruptive, and for the students sent home, it felt like a return to last year's remote schooling.  Thus, teachers' unions send home 1 to 3% of students by testing and quarantine — and some schools (districts) have either moved to remote schooling or temporarily closed.

Although many are fooled into thinking masking and testing asymptomatic children is the best way to "keep children safe," my eyes are opened to see our children sacrifice their education to failed "safety measures."

Meanwhile, our neighbors in the U.K., including Scotland, haven't quarantined close contacts under age 18 since August, and Europe's CDC dropped student (but not teacher) mask requirements in May — a data-driven decision based on low student transmission rates and the prioritization of learning.  In the U.S., teachers are perfectly happy to reduce teaching hours, "work" from home, receive COVID bonuses, and request mitigation measures without scientific merit.  I view every request by the unions with suspicion, and we needn't look any farther than the LAUSD being first to mandate vaccines for all students 12+, ostensibly for their safety.

WIth Pfizer vaccine efficacy waning below 50% and healthy teenage boys facing myocarditis risks up to 600% higher than hospitalization risk for a disease with 99.997% mortality risk, the risk-benefit calculation makes a vaccine mandate unjustified.  With just over half of 12- to 17-year olds in California fully vaccinated, teachers' unions may be looking to further cut their workload half.

California's Gov. Newsom has aligned state policies with CDC school guidance, and he further protected the teachers' salaries with SB98, a stable funding formula tied to 2019 student enrollment rather than student average daily attendance.  Without concerns about keeping parents happy and rewarded with huge COVID bonuses ($4.7 billion for the LAUSD and $26.7 billion for all California), teachers' unions become immune to parental demands to reopen schools and blind to student learning loss, suicidality, or excessive screen time.

The teachers' unions' demands haven't changed.  After shutdowns in Spring 2020, California public schools had lost 160,000 or 3% of students, and slow reopenings prompted even more declines in enrollment this year, with one district reporting double the expected Census drop in 2021.  In fact, you can hear directly from union boss Randi Weingarten, describing her plan to return California and New York to remote schooling this fall/winter if teacher safety can't be guaranteed.

It's time to wake up.  This is a politicized public health "crisis" with unions pulling the strings.  All we can see of this are California's results, and they aren't pretty.

Image: CDC logo via Facebook, public domain.

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