But how soon? ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

February 17, 2021

Understand more. Argue less.

Good morning. The CDC says it’s (relatively) safe for primary and secondary schools to reopen in person, but teachers haven’t exactly been eager to go back, yet. Let’s break down what a return to classroom learning might look like.

Did someone forward this to you? Subscribe here


Classroom Comeback

Jenna Gibson

The average number of daily new Coronavirus cases in the United States fell below 100,000 for the first time in months, and school districts are starting to open up, slowly. While it’s not clear exactly how many are currently open for in-person learning, an Education Week tracker found that, as of February 8th, 43 out of 77 metropolitan districts studied are open for some type of in-person learning.

One thing’s for sure: the mental development of children is maximized with in-person learning. On Friday, the CDC released a report projecting that even without full vaccination, consistent safety measures like proper ventilation, mask mandates, and decreased student density can sufficiently limit infection rates in schools. However, teachers unions are resistant to a return to in-person learning until either all teachers get vaccine prioritization or those CDC safety measures are met. The problem is that many schools are far from meeting those requirements, said to Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Once they catch up, 85% of educators said they would be comfortable returning to school, according to a poll by the AFT.

Here’s what else you need to know.

The Facts

  • Home stress. Not only are students (especially in low-income households) learning less, but anxiety and depression have spiked as well. Mental health emergencies for students under the age of 18 have risen by 30% since the pandemic began, while ADHD diagnoses are also up 67% from last year. (CDC)

  • Houston, we have a problem. In Houston (one of the country’s largest school districts), 42% percent of students received one or more F’s in the first grading period, which was 100% virtual. Last year, only 26% fell into that category. (CBS)

  • Political capital. Teachers unions have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party since the 1980s, and this past election they spent approximately $38 million on ads supporting Joe Biden. Educational organizations as a whole were Biden’s 5th largest donor. (Open Secrets)

  • What about colleges? More than a quarter of colleges are offering in-person classes this spring. 40% of colleges are primarily online this spring, while about 25% of universities in the data set are listed as "undetermined." (Chronicle)


How It's Being Spun

Katherine Chuang

Here are the narratives from both sides, along with supporting headlines and article snippets. These are not necessarily factual, but instead illustrate the news coverage that solidifies the narrative from each side. The bias ratings refer to news outlets as a whole, not a specific article.

Narrative from the Right

On the campaign trail, Biden was all about “following the science” and reopening schools quickly. However, the minute special interest groups such as teachers unions push back, he starts playing politics. Every day that schools stay closed is another day students miss the vital education and socialization they can only get from in-person learning. The facts don’t lie.

Supporting Headlines

Democrats Would Rather Kids Die Than Stand Up To Teachers Unions

'Losing Patience:' Vox Calls For Schools To Reopen 'Right Now' In Apparent Jab At Biden White House

Democrats Put ‘Interests Of Education Unions’ Ahead Of ‘Wellbeing Of Our Children’

Narrative from the Left

Biden has made great progress in handling the pandemic, but the Right is still relentless in criticizing him every step of the way. He’s not in an easy spot, and is doing his best to get kids back in school as quickly as possible while also keeping both students and teachers safe. Unlike his predecessor, Biden will listen to the medical and education experts.

Supporting Headlines

GOP Tries To Weaponize Pandemic-Exhausted Parents Against Biden

Teachers Say They’re Comfortable Going Back To School, But Only With Strict Safety Measures

Chicago Public School Teachers Back Tentative Deal To Return To In-Person Learning, Union Says

But, It's Not All Bias 

Sometimes, the news gets it right. Here are two cases where traditionally biased news outlets reported with relative objectivity, conceding a point to the other side's narrative.

Reopening Schools Has Become a Bipartisan Issue. Why Isn’t Biden Pushing Harder?

Politico deviates from the Left’s narrative that President Biden is doing the right thing by trying to balance the desires of teachers unions and parents. (Politico)

Closed Classrooms Put Democrats In Bind As Teachers' Unions Resist Reopening

The Washington Times deviates from the Right’s narrative that Joe Biden is simply dragging his feet by highlighting the precarious political position he’s in. (Washington Times)


What Does It All Mean?

Depending on where you get your news, the story might sound a something like this… 

  • If your news outlets lean Left, you can see both sides of this, and feel Biden is being scrutinized unfairly. On one hand, students learn better in school and would certainly benefit from in-person education. On the other, a teacher’s ability to stay healthy enough to teach is too vital to be put to unnecessary risk. Regardless, at the end of the day, you agree that children should be back in school as quickly as possible.

  • If your news outlets lean Right, you once again see that nothing has changed.You feel frustrated that ineffective lockdowns don’t seem to be ending any time soon, and Biden is once again pivoting on one of his promises because of big donors and unions. Just like with the economy, you know that keeping schools shut down will continue to cause problems in the long run.

During his campaign, Joe Biden stressed that school closures were a “national emergency” and pledged to reopen all schools in his first 100 days in office. Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki updated that pledge, explaining that the administration intended to have more than 50% of schools holding at least one day of in-person learning each week by the end of the timeframe. Critics were quick to claim that Biden is setting the bar too low, and they have a point: an October Pew Research survey of K-12 parents found that 43% already had children attending at least one in-person class each week. In a CNN Town Hall yesterday evening, President Biden switched his position again. He predicted that while most elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, reopening high schools at the same rate will be more difficult.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that while teachers should get vaccination priority, it’s not necessary for everyone to be vaccinated in order to open schools.Vaccine eligibility for teachers varies across the country, even as efforts to reopen are underway. At least 24 states have made teachers fully eligible, while others offer limited availability based on age and priority. As of Sunday, only 15 million Americans have received two vaccine doses. However, the White House announced that states will see a 23% increase in vaccines delivered over the previous week. More help may be coming too, as Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine will be up for FDA approval on February 26th. 

The President must balance two major priorities: getting children back into the classroom and retaining the support of powerful labor groups for the Democratic party. The best outcome will be the one that keeps the most Americans safe.


What Else We're Following

  • Tit for tat. Despite voting to acquit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell harshly rebuked Donald Trump after his impeachment trial. Trump responded by calling McConnell a ‘Hack,’ and vowed to back challengers in the Senator's next election. (Bloomberg)

  • Parler. After a brief hiatus and the firing of its CEO, social media platform Parler is back online on ‘independent technology’. (CNBC)

  • Myanmar. Police in Myanmar filed a new charge against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her lawyer said Tuesday, as the military authorities who seized power in a coup intensified their crackdown against their opponents. (AP)

  • Polar vortex. Record subzero temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma knocked millions off the power grid and into deep freezes. Meteorologists are calling this polar vortex one of the biggest, nastiest and longest-lasting ones they’ve seen since they started recording in the 1950's. (AP)

  • Foreclosures. President Biden extends ban on foreclosures to June 30 to help homeowners struggling during the pandemic. The moratorium on evictions was previously set to expire on March 31st. (AP)

Finally, Some Good News

  • Watch therapy dogs surprise National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. who are missing their own pets. (Good News Network
  • A 20-year-old Cornell student donated Nintendo Switch consoles and video games to a children's hospital after making nearly $30,000 on GameStop stock. (Today)
  • Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed the world’s oldest known beer factory. They estimate it dates back over 5,000 years. (Good News Network)
  • Volunteers rescued more than 2,500 sea turtles who were cold-stunned by the polar vortex in Texas. (WFLA)
  • A 70-year-old grandpa became the oldest person to row across the Atlantic – and he raised $1.4 million for Alzheimer’s. (Good News Network)

Know how to make this newsletter better? Reply to this email and let us know! We respond to everyone:)

Have a great week. See you next Wednesday!

Want to Learn More?