School’s out forever as education bosses use any excuse to skip class

Randi Weingarten and teachers unions did what they could to keep schools closed

Does school matter anymore? After a pandemic response that unreasonably kept schools closed in many cities and towns across the country for far too long, it’s hard to say.  

Chronic absenteeism has exploded. The New York Times noticed it recently, in a piece called "Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere." The Times largely blamed "the pandemic" instead of the response to the pandemic.  

Yes, it was the pandemic that closed schools in March 2020. But it was backward and misguided policies that kept them closed in the fall of 2020 and beyond. Sometimes it was malice.  


In February 2021, the Joe Biden administration allowed Randi Weingarten, president of the special interest group the American Federation of Teachers, to rewrite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policies to make sure schools stayed closed. This was not the pandemic, this was politics.  

School classroom

Education bureaucrats now use any excuse to keep kids out of school. (iStock)

Four years after the pandemic began, Americans heard Randi and her friends loud and clear: school is not "essential." After all, Amazon delivered packages and Uber Eats brought food to our doors, but the schools stayed closed. It was clear what mattered.  

The school closures have been an ongoing issue. In the fall of 2021, after even Weingarten could no longer block the school doors from opening, though she did try, schools kept periodically closing for a variety of reasons anyway. Sometimes it was for vague "COVID concerns." Thanksgiving break was extended for mental health days. Some schools closed early on some days for "fatigued teachers."  

In New York City in January, an abundance of migrants, invited by the city’s politicians, were taken to James Madison High School in Brooklyn for overnight housing. The kids went back to their pointless remote learning. It was just for one day, but no one considered closing down a government agency or the United Federation of Teachers’ 340,000-square-foot building in Manhattan, to house the migrants there instead. The lesson is always: schools don’t matter, they can be shut down at any time.  

Today, schools close for just about any reason. Schools across the country are gearing up to close completely, or end the school day early, for the solar eclipse next week. The argument goes that if kids leaving school right around the time of the pandemic, they could look directly at the eclipse and hurt their eyes.  

Chicago board of education votes to remove school resource officersVideo

But that’s exactly the same "for their own good" excuse that kept so many kids, who were largely low-risk, home during COVID-19. If protecting kids means cutting them off from school, that protection will likely hurt them. No one is considering closing down places of employment, restaurants, bars, in case adults look at the sun. That would be considered a crazy thing to do. It’s no less crazy when we apply closures to schools.  

We made major mistakes during the pandemic response, especially with children, but the enduring mistake of turning schools into something optional that kids do sometimes continues to reverberate in our society. No one has been held responsible for damaging our schools like this and people like Randi Weingarten largely pretend they were on the right side of trying to open schools instead of a major obstacle in the way.  

We need to stop closing schools for non-emergency reasons. Teach kids about the solar eclipse and how they shouldn’t look at the sun, ever. Provide them with glasses to look at it if they’d like. Then move on with the school day like any other. Let’s draw a line in the sand and say: the schools stay open. 

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