By Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

The need to fully reopen Illinois schools is growing more urgent day by day. Evidence shows the mental and emotional harm to children of not being in school is outweighing the potential harm of the coronavirus. The good news is the risk of a full-time, in-class reopening is far lower than originally feared. Other countries’ experiences show Illinois can reopen schools safely.

Unfortunately, the teachers’ unions say that without significantly more rules – and more spending – those reopenings aren’t going to happen. Illinois’ unions have already warned that the state’s recently announced reopening plan doesn’t do enough. They say districts must embrace smaller class sizes, social distancing, alternate school days, additional medical staff and more remote learning for teachers and students to be safe. If the state and local districts don’t do – and fund – everything the unions want, look for teachers to oppose opening schools this fall.

Getting kids back to school is now the coronavirus’s latest political football, even though an abundance of evidence and experience shows it shouldn’t be.

Illinois should fully reopen schools

Keeping schools shut has had an increasingly negative impact on children’s lives. More and more evidence shows that children missing school is leading to isolation, anxiety, the loss of critical development time, and not to mention, lost instructional time – remote learning didn’t work. There’s also the increased risk of unreported child abuse and teen suicide.

From the WSJ:

“There’s a key connection between having good peer interactions and social emotional well-being,” says Rebecca Rialon Berry, clinical associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health in New York. “In certain populations, we’re seeing that our depression and anxiety are heightening with continued quarantining” and other aspects of the pandemic. “We have to start talking about the calculated risk and taking some more.”

“Of all age groups, this virus is probably more socially devastating to teens than any other group. They are bored and they are lonely,” says Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

No less than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school” and that “policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within schools must be balanced with the known harms to children, adolescents, families and the community by keeping children at home.”

And there’s the economic harm to consider as well. As the state opens up and businesses bring employees back, families remain stuck, especially those where both parents work. Daycare facilities remain restricted and summer camps and schools are closed, leaving parents with few options. A return to normalcy for families can’t happen without students going back to school.

What we know of COVID-19 says reopenings can happen. Children, thankfully, have been largely spared from the worst effects of the coronavirus. Across Illinois as of July 6, only four children under the age of 20 have died due to COVID-19. In total, they make up just 0.06 percent of all virus deaths in the state.

Nationwide, deaths for children under the age of 15 now total just 29.

While the loss of any life is tragic, the reality is children are more likely to die from the flu or pneumonia than COVID-19.  As the WSJ reported in May: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that 15 children under age 15 in the U.S. have died of Covid-19 since February compared to about 200 who died of the flu and pneumonia. Children represent 0.02% of virus fatalities in the U.S., and very few have been hospitalized.”

For sure, there are other issues such as inflammation leading to lung damage that some children have experienced. But those conditions are rare enough to not justify the continued shutdown of school for all.

The big challenge for district officials in Illinois and across the county will be to protect children with pre-existing conditions. At least two of Illinois’ younger victims had comorbidities, according to a Wirepoints analysis of Cook County Medical Examiner data.

For those children and others at risk, online learning will be the best option until a vaccine or herd immunity is developed. But for the rest of Illinois’ student body, going back to school full time can and should be the priority.

At the same time, precautions will have to be taken to protect adults in the education system, particularly teachers. Accommodations must be made for educators that are elderly and/or have pre-existing conditions. The same goes for parents struggling with the same issues.

Fortunately, more and more research also shows that schools are not the coronavirus breeding ground many feared they would be. A big reason why is that younger children are apparently not a significant contractor or spreader of COVID-19. Science magazine recently reported that “several studies have found that overall, people under age 18 are between one-third and one-half as likely as adults to contract the virus, and the risk appears lowest for the youngest children.”

Most importantly, we know that the low risks of reopening aren’t just theoretical. Countries like Germany, Austria, Norway and Denmark reopened schools in May and June with various levels of protections in place.

Science called the reopenings a “vast, uncontrolled experiment:”

Some schools imposed strict limits on contact between children, while others let them play freely. Some required masks, while others made them optional. Some closed temporarily if just one student was diagnosed with COVID-19; others stayed open even when multiple children or staff were affected, sending only ill people and direct contacts into quarantine.

Several weeks later, we can see the results. Most, if not all countries, that reopened schools didn’t experience a surge in cases among students. 

In particular, Denmark closed schools in March and reopened them in April after establishing social distancing rules such as desks being six feet apart and staggered recesses. The Washington Post reports that “so far, there have been no signs of a coronavirus resurgence — new cases continued to decline as schools reopened, a trend also seen in some other European countries.”

And that’s despite some countries’ less stringent approach to measures such as masks. Germany doesn’t require students to wear masks at their desks. Austria abandoned its own mask requirement only a few weeks after opening. And mask wearing is optional for staff and students in Canada, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.

All that being said, reopening Illinois schools, like anything else, should be reconsidered if COVID-19 outcomes worsen. But based on what we know now, schools should fully reopen.

Teachers unions want more

The teachers unions aren’t going to make reopening easy, especially as they’ve begun to invoke “collective bargaining issues” in their response to the state’s reopening proposals.

Here are excerpts from the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and Illinois Education Association (IEA) response to Illinois’ 2020-21 school year transition plan released in June:

Successfully incorporating the ISBE guidelines will depend largely on the labor management relationship and whether or not all the support staff, teachers and stakeholders have a real voice in determining what school looks like in our new normal…

We are committed to working with ISBE to help update the guidelines and give better guidance on what to do with crowded classrooms and schools, collective bargaining issues, and the lack of critical staff and resources such as school nurses and PPE. We are very much looking forward to working with our students, and we urge ISBE to assist every school in Illinois in getting the resources needed to keep every student and adult safe…

We are our students’ voice. It is imperative that as plans are developed for the year, we get a chance to ensure the safety of our students and our members, that some of our biggest concerns in this document are addressed, including resources and collective bargaining…

And the union leadership at the national level has been quite clear about the price tag for reopening. The American Federation for Teachers has added up all the additional spending they want nationally and it totals $116.5 billion. Illinois’ share of that cost, if calculated based on the state’s share of the nation’s student population, will total nearly $5 billion.

Some Illinoisans may be tempted to empathize with those demands, but the state already spends more per student than any other state in the Midwest. At more than $15,000 in state, local and federal dollars, Illinois spends 30 percent more per student than Wisconsin and 50 percent more than Indiana. 

Illinois-already-spends-30-to-50-percent-more-than-its-neighbors-on-education1-1068x542.png

That’s a big reason why Illinois’ property taxes are the highest in the nation. About two-thirds of resident property tax bills in most areas of the state go to education.

The state should reject a “spend more for partial school reopenings” strategy. Full reopenings must be the standard. School districts should have the choice to do less, but anything other than a full reopening should result in a refund to taxpayers. 

Illinois already has all the money it needs in education. The state and school districts must reprioritize the resources they have to match the COVID-19 reality Illinoisans face before expecting billions more in taxpayer dollars.

Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on Illinois and the state’s education system.

49 Comments
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Poor Taxpayer
15 days ago

The only thing Chicago Schools teach is how to become a Whore or drug dealer or Both.
The quality of education is ZERO. The teachers could not pass a GED test.
The most important class is how to do a Drive By Shooting.
Illinois “Land of Slavery”

LEOPOLDO FERRER
16 days ago

I think if the class room, with 20 students , may assist one week 10 students from Tuesday to Friday. Mondays for clean up the class room and the other 10 students the following week.
that make 2 weeks in class and 2 week’s virtual classes. this may be for 2 or 3 months .

Poor Taxpayer
26 days ago

Best thing that could ever happen to the teachers.
They go out on Friday night and party and catch Corvid 19.
Claim a disability pension at a young age and move to Florida to live in Luxury.
They will not pay any Income tax on the disability pension. Life is good to the greedy government employees, the deck is stacked against the poor honest hard working taxpayer.
The cops and firemen are doing so why not the teachers?
Illinois “Land of Slavery”

DixonSyder
24 days ago
Reply to  Poor Taxpayer

Idiot. Fall off the wagon again? Need to back to rehab? You are a fool with your non stop spouting about pensions. In case you missed the first word, idiot.

Poor Taxpayer
23 days ago
Reply to  Poor Taxpayer

Despite the 2019 bull market, Illinois’ official state pension shortfall grew to a record $137 billion in 2019, up from $134 billion the year before. COGFA now projects that official pension costs will devour more than a quarter of the state’s budget for the next 25 years.
The problem is, Illinois’ pension crisis is far worse than even the official numbers show. The state’s rosy actuarial assumptions make the funds look better-off than they really are.

DixonSyder
23 days ago
Reply to  Poor Taxpayer

Put your bottle of moonshine away you drunken fool. Making non stop idiotic comments about things you have no understand of is frankly, idiotic. Go back to beating your wife and kicking the dog, something you must excel at.

DixonSyder
22 days ago
Reply to  DixonSyder

I must learn not to call people drunken fool and idiot. I must beat and kick myself. I should care about pensions. I’m sorry.

DixonSyder the 3rd
19 days ago
Reply to  DixonSyder

Woe is me, I forgot I don’t understand that the pension funds have been borrowed against by earlier generations of moronic Boomers who only thought of greed and the “now” never once looking towards the future.

Woe is me, I spout about thinking of the future now because of the mess I caused myself.

Boomer remover came at the right time.

Joe The Plumber
26 days ago

Mouth breathers want to kill little mouth breathers before they become big mouth breathers. What’s not to like?

Governor of Alderaan
28 days ago

These greed-crazed union parasites never pass on a chance to harm children

Mike
28 days ago

The primary purpose of a teacher union is to advocate for teachers and that is made abundantly clear in cases such as resuming school during a viral outbreak for which there is no antidote, educator misconduct against a student, etc. There is an infamous July 6, 2009 video in which Bob Chanin, then the general counsel of the NEA teacher union (the nationwide affiliate of the IEA), at its annual Representative Assembly, explains why he believes the teacher union is so effective in advocating for its teacher members. “NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And… Read more »

Mike
28 days ago
Reply to  Mike

There are a few key sentences omitted in the above comment. Here is a better starting point. “”And that brings me to my final and most important point.   Which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates.   Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas.   It is not because of the merit of our positions.   It is not because we care about children.   And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every… Read more »

NB-Chicago
28 days ago

Once again, jb should be passing emergency legislation ASAP giving the ridiclous #– 879+ school districts legal protections against lawsuits. Other states are already doing and Republicans Senate is pushing for as well. Teachers unions, trial lawyers ass, the madigans & Pelosis are dead set against. If and when schools re-open all the 879+ school dist & tax payers are on there own

NB-Chicago
28 days ago
Reply to  NB-Chicago

Jb needs to pass covid legal protection legislation for tax payer funded schools just like he passed covid legal protections for his private sector healthcare industry buddies (after gigantic lobbying effort)

Concerned Illinoisian
19 days ago
Reply to  NB-Chicago

Agree with you 100%. This is also the first occasion I have been in agreement with McConnell.

ConcernedExpat
28 days ago

A very sad fact based upon the statewide Covid-19 death statistics is that more children below 20 have died from gun violence in Cook County than of Covid-19 in the entire state of Illinois. Let that fact sink in.

Lyn P
28 days ago
Reply to  ConcernedExpat

Such gun deaths are an irrelevant piece of non-data to Jabba, Leadfoot, CTU and other freebie-loving political entities.

Curious Karl
19 days ago
Reply to  ConcernedExpat

And yet, what is missing from this data? Taking into account the effect of mitigation and social-distancing efforts during the first part of this wave. Do you think if you increase exposure to more groups these number will hold up? And if they do, do you know what the total body count would be? COVID deaths amongst youths would be worse that deaths from school shootings. Yes, open the schools without regard to science, conscience, morals, or rational thought. I say this as a parent who desperately wants his children to go to school in-person in the fall. I just… Read more »

P Quilici
28 days ago

Having European models for school re- openings that so far have proved successful is a plus. And I’ll bet the wealthier Illinois school districts have been in contact with European school administrators to obtain the facts. And I’ll also bet the parents in wealthier districts have been keeping an eye on developments. And it’ll be interesting to see how wealthier areas like the northshore structure a re-opening. Then there are the poorer districts. Will state and local officials demand the same standards? And how will they pay for them? Will this be the opportunity for some districts to declare insolvency… Read more »

Curious Karl
19 days ago
Reply to  P Quilici

Get to the European mitigation results first. Otherwise, you’ll end up with the right system and wrong results.

Mike
28 days ago

Keeping students at home may disproportionately harm Blacks, Hispanics, and most students of color (other than in many cases Asian) if the achievement gap services are less effective remotely. Let’s look at Blacks, because Hispanics and other colors are ignored in Black Lives Matter. Although there are exceptions, generally Blacks come into the public education system as a whole less prepared compared to whites. That initial discrepancy is called the achievement gap. The achievement gap in most cases persists through graduation. There has been a massive influx of money into the public education systems and elsewhere to close that achievement… Read more »

Don H
26 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Many blacks , but not all come into the public education system not adequately prepared for age appropriate learning. There are a great number of AA adults of every economic range who invest time, resources and money into their children from the time of their birth. Sadly, a greater amount spend far few hours or barely any in prep molding their child’s mind for academic and scholastic learning.

nixit
28 days ago

The 2018 Annual Survey of School System Finances is out. With the exception of MI, I think we expanded our lead over those neighboring states.

You should add Minnesota to this list. They only spend $12,975.

https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2018/econ/school-finances/secondary-education-finance.html

Freddy
28 days ago

On the local news networks here in Rockford more parents are deciding on home schooling. Probably also true around the state but they still have to pay their local school tax’s.

Fig Newton
28 days ago
Reply to  Freddy

Ed Sec’y Betsey De Voss stated Thursday that the federal government is putting together initiatives to allow parents that want their kids in school to be able to receive a voucher that PULLS THE MONEY from the school/school board that chooses NOT to open against all facts and reason, and use the money to enroll your kids in schools that are open and choosing to NOT put their selfish interests in front of educating kids! Check out the Dept of Ed website, covid schooling options

Curious Karl
19 days ago
Reply to  Fig Newton

Of course this administration’s response would be to pull much-needed funds (which it cannot do). This just takes more money away from poor communities and funnels it to the wealthy, under the guise of providing “choice” to everyone.

You think private schools are going to open their doors for kids who need scholarships and don’t have the grades to back it up? Keep dreaming Figgie.

Illinois Entrepreneur
28 days ago

How could anyone trust anything CTU says? On one hand they point out that they represent the teachers, but when convenient they are “the voice of the children.”

I wonder how their view would change if they were told that they would not get paid if the kids can’t come back? Go ahead and strike — there would be no kids to teach anyway.

susan
28 days ago

Illinois teachers seem to care about children like an illicit munitions factory with children as human shields cares about children: children are valuable assets which enable a profitable enterprise to keep running profitably. Based upon past performance, we may assume they will not be swayed by rational arguments: they are motivated by their own desires based upon narrow self-interest. Home-schoolers have well founded methods of providing socialization (with other like-minded parents/other children). Khan Academy online provides world-class education modules FOR FREE which concentrate on STEM subjects. Charter schools (have the opportunity to) provide education with superior results for significantly lower… Read more »

UnclePugsly
28 days ago

The Professors words should be alarming to all. One poor academic year can hound kids, and their parents, for the students whole academic career. The Democrat politics needs to stop.

Peter Brunk
28 days ago

Catholic Schools are opening in a month. What does that say for the teacher’s union?

Curious Karl
19 days ago
Reply to  Peter Brunk

It tells me the Catholic Schools need money. They did take PPP payments after all (even though they didn’t need them).

dewey
28 days ago

the CTU’s latest position statement on reopenings. the (anti-science) views expressed here are deeply concerning for any supporter of public education.

https://www.ctulocal1.org/posts/ctu-member-wide-survey-results-on-reopening-of-chicagos-public-schools/

Stacy
28 days ago
Reply to  dewey

Dewey, anti-science views? Everyone loves to tout science, what science are you referring to? Because here is some science, straight from the CDC’s website on death rates by age. See the flat light blue line? Yeah, that is the death rate for the 0 – 24 years old age group. Teachers may take precautions if they wish, but it is absolutely safe for children to be in school.
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm?fbclid=IwAR1hKKmi0YRc3Cv4PsFs_WJkdwxH117k1WxMirWFpt533coII_nJj6hUiXw#AgeAndSex

lana
28 days ago

Any school district who does not open physically, a school tax rebate is DUE to the property tax payers for that portion of building maintenance, etc.

Curious Karl
19 days ago
Reply to  lana

Uh, no. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

Bill
28 days ago

So close them and cut the paychecks off. What’s the big deal?

Mick the Tick
28 days ago

Parents living in Illinios should be charged with child endangerment and/or child neglect.

Mike
28 days ago

At the very least find a good home school curriculum and support group to supplement the public education, and you may find that’s a better way to go.

Trusting your child’s education to a curriculum highly influenced by teacher union leadership and special interest groups has grown increasingly problematic on many fronts.

To quote someone from the public education jungle.

“It’s broke.

You can’t fix it.”

Stacy
29 days ago

Teacher’s unions need to be careful what they wish for. Myself and a lot of other parents are strongly considering pulling our kids and homeschooling due to all the regulations from the ISBE. Less students in school is going to mean teacher layoffs, and it will likely disproportionately hit wealthier districts since that is where parents can afford to have one parent stay home and homeschool.

Daskoterzar
28 days ago
Reply to  Stacy

Couldn’t agree more. Ya know though, the result might be layoffs of teachers and administration, closing of schools, etc…and the teachers will cry about it, but it will never impact our tax liability. That will continue to go up even though the largest part of property taxes go to the school district. So, the tax payers force them to down size…but our costs go up. I guess I have no faith that anyone in government would do the right thing.

Last edited 28 days ago by Daskoterzar
Chumpchange
28 days ago
Reply to  Stacy

The unions don’t care about jobs/layoffs. They care about money and political power it brings.

someone
29 days ago

The students need the interaction.
But then the teachers and the politicians are afraid that the students are not being brainwashed properly if they are taught at home.

Fed up neighbor
29 days ago

Don’t open because of unions fine shut the schools down fire all the worthless administrators and assistants and teaches and janitors hows that frost your nuts. Home school now

The Truth Hurts
29 days ago

I completely agree that schools must open. All the data shows that the relative risk for COVID is much lower for those under 25 compared to the flu. Unfortunately now that Florida has demanded that schools are open 5 days a week and Trump demanding that schools must open, all blue state governors will need to choose the opposite approach. That way the media can point out how Trump and red state governors are trying to kill kids and democrats are their savior. We are screwed.

Stacy
29 days ago

My thoughts exactly. Here in Illinois, Pritzker is bound and determined to do the exact opposite of whatever Trump wants. And the kids are better off in school. The media will paint a different picture though, of course. 🙁

Betty
28 days ago

Of course schools should open. But schools are not only children. Schools are a community of students, teachers, secretaries, custodians, special ed teachers, and school nurses. There still has to be distancing between adults. Even tho there is little spread or vectors in PreK-5, middle school and high school are more like adults and it’s very possible to have an outbreak there – as we all know how that age group likes to follow directions. So the question is how do we open schools in an effective yet safe way. I work in a school – not in Chicago. The… Read more »

Richard Poo Millersky
28 days ago
Reply to  Betty

After reading various CTU and CPS complaints here and SCC, I wonder where school support us coming from. (@_@)

Children’s education is really a parental responsibility. So only they should really decide.
(☉。☉)!

In most urban areas, children are missing out on fights, gangs, drugs, Whites are evil, drag queen story time, abortions are good, teach kids how to have sex at age 5, no mention of morals and more.
ヽ((◎д◎))ゝ

If parents say home school or some kind of private school, I say good for them!
\(°o°)/

Last edited 28 days ago by Richard Poo Millersky
Richard Poo Millersky
27 days ago

Dear Down voters, try replying with your views, to engage in dialogue. 😃🇺🇸