Friday, July 24, 2020

Los Angeles and San Diego will not reopen classrooms in the fall

The Los Angeles and San Diego school districts announced Monday that they will not return to in-person classes next month but will begin the school year with online-only classes over coronavirus concerns.

In Los Angeles, students will start virtual classes on August 18 but will not be called back to the physical classroom, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said. San Diego will start online-only classes on August 31.

“Countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control,” the San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified school districts said in a joint statement.

Schools in the Los Angeles and San Diego districts have been closed since March 13, when cases of the coronavirus began across the country. Since then, districts said they have been on a “breakneck pace” to transition to online learning.

Both districts said they plan on starting in-person classes later in the school year “as soon as public health conditions allow” and called on the federal government to provide the resources schools need to reopen.

The Trump administration has threatened to deny federal funding to school districts that refuse to restart in-person classes in the fall.

“This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August,” the statement from the districts said. “It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand.”

Additionally, the districts said they will create their “own source for reliable scientific information” since the information from the medical and scientific communities has been “vague and conflicting.”


University of Connecticut student government leaders resign because they're white

Kent Brockman has said it before and he’ll say it again: “Democracy simply doesn’t work.”

It’s a view also embraced by the president and vice president of the University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government, who spurned the students who voted for them four months ago by resigning their elected positions.

Their rationale is both ludicrous and probably genuine: White people shouldn’t lead.

VP Alex Ose was the first to go last week, according to The Daily Campus. She cited “the climate and incidents of racial injustice across the country and at the university” without elaborating on what’s wrong at UConn (or why she can’t address the perceived problem as an elected official):

I feel that it is my duty to step down from my position to make space for BIPOC (black, indigineous and people of color) voices to truly rise and be heard. It is my responsibility to make space, not to create an echo.

Ose is also pressuring the remaining white members of the student government to resign, asking them to consider their “intent” in student leadership (to lead?) and whether they “truly” believe “they are making space for the voices that need to be heard right now” – the aforementioned BIPOCs.

President Joshua Crow didn’t go that far when he announced his own resignation prompted by white guilt two days later.

“It is important in this time to ensure that marginalized groups have the platforms they need,” he said, according to The Daily Campus. (Their paralyzing white guilt makes a little more sense when you consider that Crow and Ose beat a nonwhite ticket, Jase Valle and Guymara Manigat.)

Crow’s temporary replacement is … another white guy, Will Schad. But don’t worry! Schad’s whiteness won’t pollute the student government for much longer, at least as president.

At a Thursday town hall to “address racism within” the student government, as the Daily put it without a hint of bias, Schad emphasized he didn’t want the job and would schedule elections as soon as possible. Remember, elections were four months ago and students made their choices:

“This was never a job that I had my eyes on, but I’m going to be as committed to the students as possible and as committed to starting to solve issues of racial bias and injustice and as well as elitism, as I can be,” Schad said.

Schad also talked about his experience in working toward diversity and inclusion while in his position as speaker of the Senate. While in his former position, he said he was pushing for mandatory bias training, election reform, bias control policies within USG as well as advocating for greater access to resources for BIPOC students, such as mental health services.

MORE: Incoming student president under fire for pro-police march

You won’t believe what prompted this town hall and another hosted by Ose and Crow, whose feedback apparently prompted their race-based resignations.

Some students – whose privilege enables them to take offense at everything – had complained about a student government survey that asked undergraduates to anonymously share their own experiences of discrimination, from “microaggressions” to “Islamophobia.” It was crafted by the “Multi-Cultural and Diversity” senators.

Any reasonable person – i.e., not a UConn racial activist – would scratch their head at why students would criticize rather than thank their elected leaders for inviting their feedback.

You see, the perpetually aggrieved Huskies accused the student government of … survey appropriation, I guess you’d call it?

There were multiple comments under the [Instagram] post [sharing the survey] from students who said the survey was tone-deaf and that it seemed like the page was plagiarizing the idea from student-run anonymous social media accounts like Black at UConn.

“Why do you need surveys to know racism is wrong, you’re not amplifying anyone’s voice, you’re colonizing them,” one person commented.

Indeed, an hour after the post went up, the Black at UConn Instagram account shared an anonymous testimonial that called the student government “despicable” because “your Black and Latinx members are often talked over, looked past and not valued.” (The only example of this supposed oppression? A wonky dispute over compensating members of the executive board, which was mostly nonwhite when the compensation rule took effect.)

Though the student government quickly apologized for asking for student feedback without the sufficient wokeness, it didn’t really matter. Crow already declared at his town hall that UConn was an “inherently racist institution,” and several attendees flat-out said any executive board that was not majority nonwhite was illegitimate.

It would be nice to see student leaders of any color emphasize that skin color is not destiny, and that blacks can capably represent whites and vice versa. Sadly, don’t expect to see such leadership anytime soon at UConn.


Unions Are Stopping School Reopenings

It’s week 18 of the “two week” pandemic lockdown and it’s nearly August!  Kids should be thinking about going back to school but in a lot of the country they won’t be.  In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has made it nearly impossible for students to return to in person classes and in Los Angeles nearly 33% (one THIRD) of all students never logged on to an online class.

The pandemic is robbing students of years of learning and critical socialization with their peers.

On today’s podcast we’re joined by Lindsey Burke who is the Heritage Foundation’s top education expert.  She shows how lawmakers can use the pandemic to radically change education for the better but the reality is that Unions are in danger of changing education policy for the worse.

Watch On YouTube:

Lindsey points out that the closures are an opportunity to implement school choice legislation that could allow students to return to class even if their local districts refuse to open. That's freedom!

The “science” about reopening is very clear -- students are not at risk of COVID-19 and teachers are at a minimal risk.  Countries around the world have reopened their schools and yet the United States is behind because of partisan politics.

Leftist teachers unions have taken advantage of the pandemic to advance their own radical agendas, including the California teachers’ union that produced a “wish list” for the future of education in the state. Lindsey also fills us in on some of the more innovative approaches to education around the world, including “pods,” education vouchers, and school choice legislation.

Also on today’s episode we correct the record on the late John Lewis. Its a story you wonrt see anywhere else. Although he spent much of his early life advancing the noble causes of Civil Rights, he later squandered this political capital lying and accusing Tea Party supporters of calling him racist names. Phelim remembers how his friend Andrew Breitbart led the fight to expose the slur.


UK: No teachers have caught coronavirus from pupils anywhere in the world, claims SAGE adviser who suggests it was a mistake to shut schools

There is no proof Covid-19 has been transmitted from a pupil to a teacher in school anywhere in the world, a scientist advising the Government has claimed.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist from the University of Edinburgh, said closing all schools completely during Britain's lockdown might have been a mistake.

Evidence now suggests children are 'minimally involved' in the spread of Covid-19, which politicians should bear in mind in the future, he added.

Statistics show 15 children and teenagers have died of coronavirus in England and Wales since March, 0.03 per cent of the total deaths.

And scientists say children appear to only rarely be seriously affected by the condition, which preys on existing ill health and is most dangerous for the elderly. Getting fewer symptoms and milder illness may make them less likely to spread it.

Professor Woolhouse, who sits on a sub-group of SAGE, told The Times it is 'extremely difficult' to find any instances of children spreading the virus to adults in schools, with no certain cases.

He suggests closing schools was 'never essential' and said it was unlikely that governments would repeat the drastic step.

It is not clear, however, how much children contribute to the spread of the virus in the home, which is where most transmission takes place. Elderly relatives could be at risk from children catching the virus from other families, for example, suggesting keeping youngsters apart at school could still be beneficial.

Returning to school has been a controversial issue in Britain as teachers and school staff said they felt unable to do it safely in the way the Government was asking. Nearly half of teachers say they are unprepared and only one in five feel safe.

Primary schools in Britain have been allowed to reopen to certain year groups and are run in 'bubbles' of teachers assigned to certain classes.

Secondary schools, however, have had to remain closed since lockdown was imposed in March and will not reopen until September.

From the start of the school year, all schools in England are set to reopen as normal and attendance will be mandatory again as it is in normal times.

Evidence has grown during the course of the pandemic that children are very rarely affected by Covid-19 and it is even more rare that they die from the illness.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine published a study in June that found only two in 10 children with coronavirus have any symptoms of it. They saw that under-20s are half as likely to become sick with Covid-19 as over-70s, and only 21 per cent of infected 10 to 19-year-olds had symptoms.

In comparison, the rate of symptoms among over-70s — the group most vulnerable to the disease — was three times higher at 69 per cent.

The LSHTM experts said understanding that children are less affected by the disease could influence how strict school closures have to be in the future.

In a meeting in May with members of the House of Lords, LHSTM infectious disease experts Dr Rosalind Eggo and Professor John Edmunds explained that children appear to be less likely to spread the disease as well.

Dr Eggo said: 'We think that children are less likely to get it so far but it is not certain. 'We are very certain that children are less likely to have severe outcomes and there are hints that children are less infectious but it is not certain.'

Scientists cannot say why children seem to have some level of natural protection from COVID-19.

There have been suggestions that it because they don't have as much age-related lung damage or ill health, or because they have considerably lower rates of illnesses which increase the risk of complications, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Professor Edmunds, who is a member of SAGE, the group of scientists advising the government, today told members of the Lords: 'It is unusual that children don't seem to play much of a role in transmission because for most respiratory viruses and bacteria they play a central role, but in this they don't seem to.'

Office for National Statistics data shows that, in England and Wales, 15 people under the age of 20 have died of Covid-19 during the entire outbreak up to July 10. This was just 0.03 per cent of the total 51,096 counted by that date.

Professor Woolhouse told The Times that children of school age up to 15 are 'minimally involved in the epidemiology of this virus'.

He said: 'There is increasing evidence that they rarely transmit.  'For example, it is extremely difficult to find any instance anywhere in the world as a single example of a child transmitting to a teacher in school. There may have been one in Australia but it is incredibly rare.

'There are certain environments where this virus transmits very well and children are not present in these environments.'

The idea that children don't transmit the virus as much as adults has gained traction in recent months as scientists have been able to study where Covid-19 spreads the most.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine published a study in June that found only two in 10 children with coronavirus have any symptoms of it.

They saw that under-20s are half as likely to become sick with Covid-19 as over-70s, and only 21 per cent of infected 10 to 19-year-olds had symptoms.

In comparison, the rate of symptoms among over-70s — the group most vulnerable to the disease — was three times higher at 69 per cent.

The LSHTM experts said understanding that children are less affected by the disease could influence how strict school closures have to be in the future.

Schools are set to reopen fully without social distancing in September but teachers are uneasy about the plans.

The union NASUWT found that only 22 per cent of school staff in Scotland said they feel safe returning under the current proposed plan.

General secretary of the union, Dr Patrick Roach, said: 'The NASUWT recognises the importance of schools reopening to all children as soon as it is safe to do so. 'The Education Secretary needs to develop a coordinated national plan to deliver the full and safe reopening of all schools in September.

'He needs to address as a matter of urgency the many practical and logistical issues that have been raised by teachers and headteachers across the country.

'Schools have only a few weeks before they close for the summer break. Teachers and headteachers need urgent clarification from the DfE [Department for Education] if they are to be able to meet the guidance on September re-opening consistently and safely.'

Reasons for children's apparent resilience to the disease are still unclear, despite a wave of trials devoted to unraveling the truth on the contentious topic.

Top researchers say their immune system may be faster to react or their bodies better able to cope with viral infections because they are younger.

Other studies have also suggested that children may have stronger immunity to coronaviruses in general because they catch so many colds, some of which are caused by viruses that look very similar to the one that causes Covid-19.

Speaking to the House of Lords's Science and Technology Committee in June,  LSHTM infectious disease experts Dr Rosalind Eggo and Professor John Edmunds said children don't seem to spread the virus as much as adults when they have it.

This is unusual because children are usually 'super-spreaders' of coughs and colds because they have bad hygiene.

Professor Edmunds, who was a member of SAGE alongside Professor Woolhouse, told peers: 'It is unusual that children don't seem to play much of a role in transmission because for most respiratory viruses and bacteria they play a central role, but in this they don't seem to.'

Dr Eggo added: 'We think that children are less likely to get it so far but it is not certain.

'We are very certain that children are less likely to have severe outcomes and there are hints that children are less infectious but it is not certain.'


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Virginia mandates slavery lessons for kindergarteners

Virginia kindergarten students will learn about institutional racism alongside the alphabet, according to new curriculum recommendations created for the upcoming school year.

Loudoun County is adding "social justice" to the mission of teaching elementary school students reading, writing, and arithmetic. The Washington, D.C., suburb—the richest county in the country—has teamed up with the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) education arm Teaching Tolerance to develop its new curriculum. The proposed lesson plan recommends restructuring history and social studies classes to emphasize slavery as fundamental to American society for students from kindergarten to the fifth grade.

"Sugarcoating or ignoring slavery until later grades makes students more upset by or even resistant to true stories about American history," the documents say. "Long before we teach algebra, we teach its component parts. We should structure history instruction the same way."

Following parent complaints, a district spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon on Monday that the changes are optional.*

"The Teaching Tolerance resources are optional," spokesman Rob Doolittle said. "Parents who have queried LCPS about those resources have been informed that they are optional.

Not every Loudoun County educator is on board with the administration's direction. A longtime elementary school teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said that the school system had always taught students about the reality of slavery—lessons that typically begin in the fourth grade. She said the administrative focus to push racial politics on students who do not yet know how to read is motivated by politics, rather than education.

"I teach lower grades in elementary school.… [Never before] did I have to teach about slavery," the teacher said. "Our standards were always [to] teach about famous Americans, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., people like that. But, it was all very general and the bigger picture, we highlighted their accomplishments."

The new Teaching Tolerance kindergarten curriculum urges teachers to explain social justice theories to five-year-olds. The Loudoun County elementary school teacher believes this curriculum will prove divisive for children who lack the maturity to deal with the subject.

"What they're really trying to do is divide people as early as they can, starting now with kindergarteners. They're really going to be inciting hate," the teacher said. "They're pointing out that there's ‘whiteness' and ‘blackness' and that's crazy. We never taught about that in school…. We learn about how to get along with one another and be kind and respect others. But now, with this new curriculum that they're adding, it's going to do the total opposite."

The curriculum was first introduced by the Virginia Department of Education's superintendent. When asked how the SPLC guidelines were funded and whether the guidelines were mandatory across the state, the state's education department deflected.

"The state Board of Education approves content standards and curriculum frameworks for history and social studies," a state education department spokesman said. "Local school boards are responsible for developing or adopting curriculum aligned with the state standards and framework." Loudoun County's school board did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The guide encourages educators to create opportunities for kindergarten, first, and second grade students to learn about "activism and action civics."

"Students should study examples of role models from the past and present, and ask themselves, ‘how can I make a difference?'" the guide says. "These conversations [about slavery] should lead into discussions about current injustices—particularly those that continue to disenfranchise and oppress the descendants of enslaved people—and possibilities for activism and reform."

Max Eden, an education policy expert at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, said the curriculum's focus on political activism and the horrors of slavery is not suitable for kindergarten students. He said the movement to inject politics into elementary school classrooms has gained momentum since the New York Times launched its controversial 1619 Project.

"Students aren't prepared when they're five years old to develop a nuanced sense of history and political processes, and pros and cons of different side effects, and unintended consequences," Eden said. "What the real goal of this is, by introducing [slavery] this young, is to try to get the left-wing, Nikole Hannah-Jones, [SPLC] meta-political narrative into kids' heads as soon as possible, which is basically trying to compel them to believe that because slavery happened, therefore, America is evil and you must follow the leftist idea of … how we need to overturn power in society."

Parents are also upset that social justice would explicitly be taught in a public elementary school. A Loudoun County parent of two—who also spoke on the condition of anonymity—told the Free Beacon he was disappointed in the school district.

"SPLC is pushing Marxist ideology more or less. They're really pushing those concepts of ‘revolution' and ‘dismantling the system' that we have," the father said. "So rather than everyone coming together and building something great together, it's about destroying what's been built."

The school board is asking parents concerned about the "social justice" curriculum to fill out a survey requesting the board reconsider instructional materials.

SPLC did not respond to a request for comment.


NC Teachers’ Union Demands Universal Health Care, Welfare for Illegal Immigrants to Reopen Schools

A North Carolina teachers' union is calling for the implementation of universal health care and welfare benefits for illegal immigrants in order to reopen schools in the fall.

Just days after the Durham Association of Educators (DAE) issued a statement railing against the school district's reopening plan, Durham Public Schools voted unanimously to hold all classes virtually for at least the first nine weeks of the school year. Included in the DAE statement was a call to adopt a variety of far-left policy goals before holding in-person classes, including Medicare for All and "direct income support regardless of immigration status."

"There are concrete policies that have permitted other countries to flatten the curve and return to public life: moratoriums on rent and mortgage, universal health care, direct income support regardless of immigration status," the statement reads. "We must fight together, collectively, for changes that will permit our communities to thrive during this pandemic and beyond."

The union's statement also calls for a full shutdown of the state, saying "until that is done, remote learning should remain the default."

The district did not respond to a request for comment.

The 2020-2021 school year has become a hot-button issue in recent weeks amid an aggressive push from President Donald Trump to reopen campuses. On July 8, he threatened to cut federal funding for schools that fail to reopen in the fall, sparking pushback from teachers' unions at the local, state, and national levels.

Some health experts have emphasized the need for students to attend in-person classes moving forward. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a set of reopening guidelines in June that warned parents and policymakers of the "considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality" associated with "lengthy time away from school." In addition, a JAMA Pediatrics review of 18 studies found that most children who contract coronavirus "generally required supportive care only, and typically had a good prognosis and recovered within one to two weeks."

In its statement, the DAE acknowledged that "all children are suffering without school—some without enough food to eat, others without sufficiently supportive adult and peer relationships, many without internet access, and others with too much mindless screen time." The union, however, claimed that the Trump administration's reopening push was aimed at "protecting wealth and big business."

North Carolina GOP spokesman Tim Wigginton criticized the union's stance. He noted that the state's top public health official, Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen, said that she plans to send her daughters back to school for in-person instruction.

"Once again, teachers' unions are distorting the facts to accomplish their agenda that puts special interests first and kids last," Wigginton said at a July 16 briefing. "We need to do what's best for our children, and according to the pediatricians, that's letting them return to school."

The DAE is a direct affiliate of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), and former DAE president Bryan Proffitt was elected NCAE vice president in April. Proffitt has decried the school-choice and charter-school movements, as well as online education.

"The privatizers are hungry right now. They're going to push online education, they're going to push charters, they're going to push [the narrative] we didn't need teachers in the first place," Proffitt said in April. "Our side has to be willing to fight back just as hard."

Neither DAE nor NCAE responded to requests for comment.

Durham Public Schools planned to hold in-person classes for elementary, middle, and "exceptional" high school students before the union spoke out. It cited "the need for childcare for our youngest and most vulnerable students" as "one of the reasons for choosing this approach." The district reversed course on Thursday, however, opting for remote classes only. The decision will last for a minimum of nine weeks, meaning district leaders may permit in-person classes starting just weeks before the November election.

The DAE is not the first local union to tie school reopenings to far-left policies. A Los Angeles teachers' union included a call to defund police in its list of school reopening requirements.


Dismantling Student Loan Program Best Path to Fight ‘Leftist Indoctrination’ on Campus

Americans should demand better from their universities. Recent riots and vandalism taking place across the country have caused many to scrutinize what students are being taught in colleges. That scrutiny has even reached the White House.

Last week, President Donald Trump tweeted out a possible answer to the growing tensions and illiberal civic education in the ivory tower:

Removing the tax-exempt status of American colleges and universities is an idea that has been suggested by some segments of the policy sphere. One sympathizes: A 2020 study by The Harvard Crimson found substantial political homogeneity among the professoriate.

Nationally, liberal professors outweigh conservative professors 6 to 1. As troubling as that ratio may seem, it pales in comparison to the one-sidedness found among college administrators, who have an outsized influence on campus culture and student life.

Having recently surveyed the political leanings of college administrators, Samuel H. Abrams, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, found that liberals outweigh conservatives 12 to 1.

These are not, however, recent developments. As Arthur Milikh of the Claremont Institute recently wrote in National Affairs:

America’s universities have been progressivism’s most important asset, its crown jewel. For over half a century, they have served as the left’s research and development headquarters and the intellectual origin or dissemination point for the political and moral transformation of the nation, especially through the sexual revolution and the identity-politics revolution. Universities have trained the new elites who have taken society’s helm and now set its tone through the other institutions thoroughly dominated by the left: the mainstream press, mass entertainment, Fortune 500s, and tech companies.

That college professors lean left is nothing new. But it is the striking environment of illiberalism, such as hostility toward freedom of speech, that is now largely driving calls to reexamine taxpayer support of these institutions.

Indeed, while our institutions of higher education were once more focused on open academic inquiry and freedom of expression, today they are defined more by their restrictions on free speech than their commitment to it.

Take for example the petition signed by Princeton University faculty members demanding an investigation into fellow faculty members engaging in “wrongthink.”

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education stated, “The threat of discipline for speech, research, and publication that is subjectively deemed ‘racist’ by a committee of ideologically motivated Princeton faculty is an anti-intellectual, frontal assault on free speech and academic freedom at Princeton that would shut down entire avenues of inquiry, research, and discussion.”

Or consider how many speakers are shouted down or banned from campus after leftist protestors make free speech and honest debate impossible.

Conservative author Heather Mac Donald faced raucous protests when she visited my alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, for correctly telling students that they were not oppressed, but rather, privileged recipients of an elite higher education.

However, reducing the financial power universities have to engage in “indoctrination, not education,” as the president said, must start with the federal student loan program.

The federal student loan program created under President Lyndon Johnson has underwritten the proliferation of women’s studies, grievance studies of various stripes, degrees steeped in critical theory, and a network of colleges that export leftist ideology into the K-12 classroom. 

In addition to funding an increasingly politically and philosophically homogenous system of higher education, massive federal subsidies also support administrative bloat. Every university now has countless administrators whose jobs have nothing to do with academics. Moreover, it is difficult to discern what these administrators actually do.

As reporter Caroline Simon pointed out in Forbes, “Administrative titles at schools, especially large research institutions, can be confusingly vague: Health Promotion Specialist, Student Success Manager and Senior Coordinator, Student Accountability are all positions currently available on”

These administrators often make up university departments of diversity and inclusion, whose primary purpose is to rid universities of any opinions that challenge progressive orthodoxy. The cultural affect this has on college campuses cannot be overstated.

With left-leaning authority figures setting the rules of discourse in and out of the classroom, higher education is unwelcoming, even hostile, to those who avoid groupthink. American taxpayers should question whether or not their investment in the federal student loan program—which props up the vast majority of schools across the country—is a worthy one.

At the same time, federal student loans have fueled rampant tuition inflation, making students dependent on taxpayer-funded loans in order to pay for what was once affordable. Schools can then get away with charging ridiculously high tuition without fear of losing students.

Cutting off the open flow of federal aid would reduce costs and hold universities accountable for what happens on campus. It would go much further than simply removing their tax-exempt status.

Winding down the federal student loan program to make space for private lending to reemerge would better serve students while also protecting taxpayers. And, at the end of the day, the purpose of higher education is not to recruit students to fight a culture war, but to help them pursue truth and achieve the American dream.

The president’s sentiment is absolutely correct: American colleges and universities have become recruiting grounds for political and cultural upheaval, not workforce development or intellectual growth. This was not the deal Americans signed up for.

However, rather than reexamining their tax-exempt status, a better and more effective approach is to dismantle the federal student loan program that fuels higher education’s deepest problems. 


Coronavirus: how likely are international university students to choose Australia over the UK, US and Canada?

Unmentioned below is that Australia is in roughly the same time zone as China.  Hence no jetlag when travelling from one to the other -- a big plus

Australian universities are suffering revenue and job losses due to the current and projected loss of international students. A Mitchell Institute report has estimated the sector may lose up to A$19 billion in the next three years, while modelling from Universities Australia shows more than 20,000 jobs are at risk over six months, and more after that.

On April 3, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said international students in Australia could return home if they could not support themselves. Commentators feared such a flippant attitude would cause Australia to lose its world class reputation if it didn’t come to the aid of international students.

Months of tension with China (the biggest source of Australian university international students, at a third of the total) threatened to further jeopardise our international standing.

On Monday, the Australian government announced it will restart granting international student visas and allow current students to count online study while overseas in a push to restart international education.

Australia imposed a ban on travel from China on February 1, stranding an estimated 87,000 students abroad who were due to start their academic year in Australia in March.

By that time it was the middle of the second, or winter, semester for Australia’s big English language competitors in the northern hemisphere: the USA, UK and Canada. Most of these countries’ international students stayed to complete their semester, so universities did not suffer an immediate fall in revenue.

But universities in these countries did incur substantial additional costs as many completed the semester by transferring teaching online at short notice.

While online education meets similar standards to campus-based education, students prefer face-to-face learning. This is particularly true for international students, who see immersion in a different culture as one of the main benefits of studying overseas.

In May, many US and UK universities announced bullish plans to teach their first semester in autumn, starting in September, face-to-face (or mask-to-mask). There were various provisions for plexiglass, physical distancing, masks and regular testing.

But even partial campus reopening plans were never credible in the US when they were announced. Still, many universities in the competitor countries sought to maximise international enrolments by maintaining at least a substantial part of their campuses would be open by September.

The US

US universities no longer seem to be nearly as strong competitors for international students. While the number of new COVID-19 cases has bumpily fallen in Australia, Canada and the UK, they have been increasing in the US.

When it became clear US universities could not responsibly open their campuses, they started reversing their announcements of opening fully in September.

By July 20 some 53% of 1,215 US universities surveyed still planned to teach in person in September, 11% planned online education, 32% planned a mix of online and in person education, and 4% were considering a range of scenarios or had not yet decided their education mode.

US President Donald Trump sought to pressure universities to open fully by making studying at least partly on campus a condition of international students’ visas. He soon reversed that order, but may issue an alternative seeking the same effect.

US attractiveness as an international study destination is likely to be further reduced by the instability in universities’ plans, the uncertainty of federal immigration conditions, and continuing restrictions on entry from China and elsewhere.

The United Kingdom

Australian universities are in a much more similar position to UK universities, which are long time and powerful rivals for international students. They are expecting to lose substantially from COVID-19’s suppression of international enrolments.

Unlike Australia, the UK government has granted universities access to government-backed support such as a job retention scheme which includes short-term contracts, and business loan support.

The UK government has also brought forward teaching payments and block research grants, and increased funds for students in financial difficulty.

Unlike Australia, the UK does not impose international travel restrictions but requires entrants from most countries including China and India to self-isolate for a fortnight after entry. It will therefore remain a more attractive destination for new students until Australia lifts or at least relaxes its travel restrictions.


Canadian universities and colleges have some distinct advantages over their competitors for international students. They enjoy considerable financial and other support from their national and provincial governments.

While Canada’s average proportion of new COVID-19 cases is similar to Australia’s and the UK’s, these are concentrated in the biggest cities of Toronto, Montreal and their environs. The Atlantic provinces have Tasmanian levels of COVID-19 cases, and some of their universities attract very high proportions of international students.

Canada’s biggest competitive disadvantage is that while it will admit returning international students, it currently is not admitting new students for the foreseeable future.

The Canadian government will grant permits to international students who study online from abroad, and like Australia this will count towards their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit. The government has also introduced a temporary two-stage approval process for international students to expedite their approval to enter to study on campus when this is permitted.

But Canada is not likely to be a desirable destination for new international students until the government and then institutions can give a firm timetable and clear plans for studying on campus.

So, what should Australia do?

To remain competitive compared to the UK, Australian universities should keep prospective students updated on the issues that affect their study decisions such as entry requirements, start dates, and study and accommodation conditions. This communication should be targeted towards education agents and their clients, and be specific to individual students.

Few students and their parents are convinced about the value and quality of online education. And they fear much of the benefit of immersion in an English speaking university environment would be lost if spatial distancing required social distancing.

Australian universities will have to be as clear as they can about the benefits of the study and living conditions students are likely to experience here.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

School Reopenings—Parents, Students Don’t Need National Consensus, They Need This Strategy

Parents looking for a national consensus on whether schools should open in the fall won’t find one. But that’s okay. We don’t need one.

Parents should be wary of press releases with advice on education from public or private national groups that use words like “comprehensive” or “nation’s schools."

Washington should not force schools to reopen. But national officials can remind state lawmakers and parents there are alternatives.

Parents looking for a national consensus on whether schools should open in the fall won’t find one. But that’s okay. We don’t need one.

As soon as President Trump announced his support for reopening schools this fall, teacher unions said he was “brazenly making these decisions.” So much for consensus. And this despite the fact that both proclamations said students should be kept safe, emphasized Centers for Disease Control guidelines on reopening (speakers on the White House panel cited no fewer than eight CDC reports, while unions called the documents “conflicting guidance”), and claimed to have the nation’s best interests in mind. Well.

Luckily, many state officials and school leaders had already moved on. In April, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said that schools could hold classes in-person immediately, but left the decision to local educators. In Idaho, closures varied by school district, but some school leaders had students back in class by May. Governors and state officials have announced in-person summer school classes for Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Texas and Virginia.

Even if relatively few schools have thus far decided to have students return to the classrooms, that fact that some states have done so should change parents’ question from if schools will open in the fall to how quickly the process can happen.

“The CDC has issued guidance,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the White House event, “but that guidance is meant to supplement and not replace state, local, territorial, or tribal guidance.” What may be “conflicting guidance,” to unions is better described as “federalism.” 50 states, 50 different pandemics, 50 laboratories of democracy.

That’s the way it should be. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis coined the “laboratory” phrase, prefacing it by saying, “To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility.” We should be encouraged, then, that some local educators are not waiting for Washington to decide for them, and, likewise, that parents are not waiting on schools.

After the wild ride of sudden school closures in March, uneven attempts at online instruction through the spring, and a school year that seemed to have no official end date, polls showed more parents were considering educating their children at home. For those wondering if the 59 percent of respondents in a USA Today/Ipsos poll who said they may homeschool now really meant it, a headline last week—and weeks before school starts—from North Carolina’s North State Journal read “Homeschool requests overload state government website.”

Those not ready to homeschool will find it difficult if not impossible to return to work if schools are closed. Montana is not Virginia which is not New York City, and parents ready to homeschool in Greensboro, N.C., may be thinking differently than a family in Charlotte. Parents should be wary of press releases with advice on education from public or private national groups that use words like “comprehensive,” “nation’s schools,” or even “all.”

The Trump administration said that schools may lose federal money if they stay closed. Such a move would likely be challenged in court. But one problematic aspect of this threat is that it keeps the debate over who should be making decisions for the “nation’s schools”—again, beware the phrase—at the national level, a tussle between the federal government and nationally-focused special interest groups.

A more effective talking point for the administration would be to encourage the laboratories. For example: In areas where schools are closed, state lawmakers could give parents and students who wish to opt-out of those schools the students' per-student spending amount to use for homeschooling resources, private school tuition, tutors and more. Or erase district boundaries and allow students to choose a traditional school other than his or her assigned school.

The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s largest teacher unions, will howl at the suggestions, but they should be loath to take the matter to court again. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montana could not prevent families from choosing a religious school when students use K-12 private school scholarships created by state law.

Unions regularly cite provisions in state constitutions that are rooted in religious bigotry when the groups sue to block such opportunities, but the High Court called precisely this language discriminatory in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, weakening the union’s position in 37 other U.S. states with similar provisions. The fight has already advanced to defending scholarships to religious private schools in Maine.

Washington should not force schools to reopen. But national officials can remind state lawmakers and parents there are alternatives. Short of a consensus on opening schools in August, that is the best news for everyone.


Democrats Play Politics With Schools, But It’s Not the First Time

Twenty-two European countries reopened their schools back in May, and it did not cause “any significant increase in coronavirus infections among children, parents, or staff.” In the months that have followed, more evidence has emerged that children are not only far less susceptible to getting sick from COVID-19, they are not transmitting it. Extended school shutdowns, however, have taken a much greater toll on kids’ mental, emotional, and physical health.

Yet Democrats are making it controversial to return to school. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ignores the science, saying, “going back to school presents the biggest risk.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio limits school to only one to three days a week and California Governor Gavin Newsom cancels in-person school for the entire academic year. Why? For the same reason Democrats block low-income kids from leaving failing schools to get a better education: the teachers unions tell them to.

A French study of over 1,300 people in one coronavirus outbreak found just three probable cases among kids, and they didn’t lead to more infections among adults. Rather than the rumored fearmongering of kids as “super-spreaders,” it was parents who infected their children — not the other way around.

Another study in Ireland examined 1,000 contacts between three kids aged 10 to 15 who had the virus and did not find a single transmission in the school setting, not even at choir practice. The results “echo the experience of other countries, where children are not emerging as considerable drivers of transmission of COVID-19.”

Yet another study in Germany found reopened schools did not drive transmission, and children actually act as a “brake on infection.” The mask requirement for schools will be dropped in the fall.

The media ignores these facts, instead opting for politically driven science-free hysteria. CNN declares that President Trump “takes new risks with schools.” In reality, kids are at much greater risk during a normal flu season. The risk to kids under 15 of dying from the flu or pneumonia is up to 20 times higher than the coronavirus. Kids are 128 times more likely to die of an accident. Should we cancel school and recess forever?

Democrat-imposed school shutdowns are the new risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics says isolation due to school closures leads physical and sexual abuse to go unreported and increases risk of substance use, depression, and suicide.

Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatrics infectious disease specialist at the University of Colorado, says reopening is “so important for the kids, but really for the entire community.” Dr Gavin Morgan, an educational psychologist in the UK, says continuing to deprive kids of playing with their friends will cause their mental health to suffer “irreparably.”

Joe Biden said, “listen to the experts." What changed? Democrats never really cared about the science. If they demonized a safe 60-year-old FDA-approved drug proven to be effective at treating the virus, they will politicize school. When the teachers unions say close, Democrats ask, how long? If you have to guess, it will be until about Nov. 3.

Democrats didn’t just begin politicizing education. Just like the science says it’s safe to reopen, the data shows students achieve more when they have school choice.

In New York City, two kids can go to school in the same building but achieve markedly improved results with choice. Thomas Sowell reports fewer than 10 percent of students in public school reached the “proficient” level, while the majority of those in school choice lottery classrooms reached proficiency, with many grade levels at over 80 percent proficient.

In Wisconsin, charter and private choice schools cost just two-thirds of public schools but consistently outperform them. In Florida, students enrolled in the recently expanded private school-choice program are up to 99 percent more likely to enroll in college. Democrats continue to block this opportunity, like Gov. Tom Wolf who is blocking 50,000 kids from receiving scholarships in Pennsylvania.

Expect worse from Joe Biden. He vows to govern like a National Education Association member and have a “teacher-oriented Department of Education.” And you thought kids were supposed to come first.

The first thing Biden would do in office, just like his predecessor, is take away minority kids’ education opportunities. The Biden-Sanders unity task force opposes all school choice vouchers and would kill the program in Washington, D.C. and the dreams of 1,700 kids – 83 percent who are Black with an average family income of $26,000 – along with it.

Teachers’ unions first. Kids last. The National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and others, give a lot to Democrats — $33.2 million in 2016 and $15 million so far this cycle — and they expect to be rewarded.

The Trump administration puts kids first. In April, the Department of Education announced $65 million in new grants for public charter schools, and 95 percent will go to Opportunity Zones, helping kids in the most need. Education Freedom Scholarships are providing $5 billion in tax credits to finance choice scholarships annually.

President Trump will always ensure Americans, of all backgrounds, of all ages, regardless of zip code, have an equal shot at the American Dream. Open the schools. And never let Democrats block kids from going to a better once again.


Send Your Kids to School!

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

In the 1980s, when I started working in financial analysis for a $3 billion company, my first project was to work with the company's field organizations to ensure that the metrics (financial and operational) were sent in a timely manner and based on consistent definitions. The goal was to ensure that the daily, weekly and monthly reports included correct, consistent information that could be compared across the company. It took a few months, but we were able to ensure that we were getting good information in a timely manner.

Fast-forward a few decades. Months into the coronavirus pandemic, we are still grappling with how to collect, compile and interpret data correctly. A New York Times article by Sarah Kliff and Margot Sanger-Katz published Tuesday titled "Bottleneck for U.S. Coronavirus Response: The Fax Machine" notes that data is being funneled through several pipelines. As a result, there is a good chance some of that data is missed or counted twice.

"Health departments track the virus's spread with a distinctly American patchwork: a reporting system in which some test results arrive via smooth data feeds but others come by phone, email, physical mail or fax," Kliff and Sanger-Katz wrote. "These reports often come in duplicate, go to the wrong health department, or are missing crucial information such as a patient's phone number or address."

Robert Guaderrama of Florida FOX 35 in Orlando reported this week: "the Florida Department of Health said that some laboratories have not been reporting negative test result data to the state. Countless labs have reported a 100 percent positivity rate, which means every single person tested was positive." Clearly, this is highly unlikely.

The challenge is that, if the numbers put in the system are not good, well, then, what comes out is garbage. Let's just assume that we could get good data into our system. We would then sort through the data to determine what it means.

Based on my business experience above, I learned that once we accumulated good, consistent data over time, we were able to determine data trends, correlations and causation. The latter proved key. By determining causation, managers could focus on improving outcomes.

Back to the pandemic. We are currently debating whether to reopen schools, and the press is reporting the number of cases and deaths every day but telling us little about who is catching the disease, who is dying from it and why. In April, the Science Museum Group Science Director Roger Highfield interviewed Kari Stefansson, the CEO of deCODE genetics, which is based in Reykjavik, Iceland. Stefansson studied the causes of COVID-19's spread in Iceland. The interview was posted on the Science Museum Group website on April 27.

"Children under 10 are less likely to get infected than adults and if they get infected, they are less likely to get seriously ill," said Stefansson. "What is interesting is that, even if children do get infected, they are less likely to transmit the disease to others than adults. We have not found a single instance of a child infecting parents."

David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, wrote a Medium article published on June 13 titled "What have been the fatal risks of Covid, particularly to children and younger adults?"

"Across seven countries up to 19th May, there had been 44 COVID deaths recorded out of over 137 million 0-19 year-olds, a rate of less than 1 in 3 million, while this same group suffered over 1000 deaths from accidents over this same period," he wrote. What else did Spiegelhalter discover? "The extraordinary linearity of the death rates on the logarithmic scale shows that COVID death rates have a fairly precise exponential increase with age, increasing at around 12-13% each year, corresponding to a doubling every 5-6 years."

OK, so now we know that children are not spreading to adults and the risk of death increases with age. What else makes a difference in the death rate? "The Office of National Statistics for England and Wales reported that '90 percent of COVID deaths had other pre-existing conditions mentioned on death certificate,'" according to Spiegelhalter.

So, age and underlying health make a huge difference.

We've also learned that we can reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 by taking basic precautions, which include cleaning, sanitizing, distancing oneself from others and spending time outdoors. Even if you do catch it, your chance of dying from it is less than 1%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We should focus on controlling what we can but still moving forward. Making kids stay home does not make sense.


More Than 20 Countries Are Reopening Schools. The US Should Take Note

In March, school shutdowns around the globe caused 1.5 billion children to begin schooling from home, representing over 91% of children, UNESCO estimates.

Here in the U.S., conversations about the state of school reopenings have hit a fever pitch as August quickly approaches. Many parents—some 71% in Education Next’s 2020 poll—feel their children learned less this spring than they would have had schools remained open.

As Science magazine reports, over 20 countries reopened schools in June, and some, like Taiwan, Nicaragua, and Sweden, never closed them to begin with. Day cares remained open for essential workers in many countries, and although there are exceptions, outbreaks have generally been rare.

To be sure, there have been some cases of outbreaks at schools that have reopened. As Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, Gretchen Vogel, and Meagan Weiland report in Science, more than 150 students and 25 staff members contracted the virus at a joint middle/high school in Jerusalem, and 96 students and teachers caught the virus at a New Zealand high school before that country’s lockdown went into effect.

Additionally, two day care centers in Canada saw spikes among staff and reclosed.

Overall, however, the data suggest that it is rare for children to develop severe symptoms if they contract the virus, and it is rare for them to spread the virus if they do get it.

That is why many countries, particularly in Europe, have at least partially reopened schools. Here is a sample of what countries around the world are doing when it comes to reopening:

Australia. In the state of New South Wales, schools reopened for in-person classes one day per week in early May, combined with virtual learning the four remaining days. Individual schools were able to decide how to best schedule those classes. On May 25, schools reopened full time.

Austria. Schools have reopened, and masks are no longer required because “officials observed little spread within schools.”
Canada. In Quebec, schools reopened in May and children socialize in groups of six. Science reports that while 53 students and teachers contracted the virus, “officials believed many of those infections were contracted in the community.”

Denmark. Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen schools, doing so on April 15. Schools in Denmark do as much class time outside as possible, and children are divided into small groups, nicknamed “pods,” of around 12 students.

Finland. Finland reopened schools in May and have retained their standard class size, but have kept classes separated from each other and staggered reopening by age. Finnish officials “found no evidence of school spread and no change in the rate of infection” for students under 16.

France. French schools reopened in mid-May on a voluntary basis. Research out of France suggests that when children do contract the disease, they are contracting it at home, rather than in school. French schools are planning to fully reopen in September.
Germany. In German schools, which reopened in May on a part-time basis, if a student or staff member contracts the virus, “classmates and teachers of an infected student are sent home for two weeks, but other classes continue.”

Israel. Schools fully reopened in May in Israel, and classes are full, but students wear masks. Individual schools close temporarily if a student or staff member contracts the virus.

Japan. Japan began reopening schools in June. Parents must take their children’s temperature every morning and provide a report to the schools. Children attend on alternating days, and teachers and students wear masks.

Netherlands. The Netherlands reopened in May but halved their class sizes. Schools did not require social distancing for students under 12.

Sweden. Schools in Sweden never closed for young children, nor did they make major adjustments to their day-to-day operations or reduce class size. Although Sweden’s death rate is high compared to its European neighbors, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist says “there’s little evidence schools exacerbated the outbreak.”

In countries with high infection rates, like India and Brazil, schools remain closed and local governments will likely determine when schools reopen on a case-by-case basis.

In the U.S., the Trump administration has called on schools to reopen this fall. President Donald Trump suggested last week that schools could lose access to federal funding (which only makes up just 8.5% of all K-12 school revenue) if they do not reopen.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos suggested that rather than withholding federal funds, those dollars should simply follow students to the schools of the family’s choice that are open—a smart policy response.

For their part, the teachers unions and other special-interest groups are demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending to reopen schools. The American Federation of Teachers has demanded Congress spend $116 billion on K-12 school reopening, “close to the amount the U.S. dedicated to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II,” Corey DeAngelis of Reason Foundation points out.

By framing the conversation as a battle between federal officials and special-interest groups, the debate shifts away from those it impacts the most—local schools and families—as my colleague Jonathan Butcher observes.

Decisions about reopening schools need to be driven by school leaders and parents, and based on local factors.

If public school districts remain closed, do a poor job of transitioning online, or do not meet the needs of families in this COVID-19 era, parents should be able to take their money elsewhere.

States should provide emergency education savings accounts to families to enable them to enroll their children at schools of their choice that are open or are providing quality online instruction.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Orange County Board of Education votes to support return to school without social distancing and masks

On the same day that Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified district administrators announced their schools would start online only in the fall, the Orange County Board of Education went a different way.

The conservative-leaning board voted Monday night on its own guidelines: for students to return to campus, without social distancing or face masks.

The lone dissenting vote was Trustee Beckie Gomez, also the only board member to wear a mask during the meeting.

The board has no power to direct any of Orange County’s 27 school districts to follow its guidelines, which are in direct opposition to those issued by the Orange County Department of Education, state public health officials and others.

Monday night’s meeting struck a similar note to a forum called by the board last month, when most of the health and public policy experts represented one side: against masks and social distancing. During the board meeting in Costa Mesa on Monday night, most of the 22 speakers allowed to address the board said they want schools to return to normal.

FDA approves Quest COVID-19 test for ‘pooled’ sample use
Children, they said, have little to no risk of getting coronavirus and restricting them to distance learning can cause serious consequences to their educational progress and emotional well-being. (Discussion during the June 24 forum led to the report voted on Monday night.)

Meanwhile, thousands of people followed the meeting online. And by 8 p.m., a petition urging the board to follow California guidelines for reopening schools had more than 35,000 signatures and continued to gain momentum. The board, petitioners said, has “a moral imperative and a social duty to prioritize the safety of our schools,” including the use of mandatory masks and social distancing.


School's Out — Forever?

If the current mindset holds — courtesy of the most successful, media-driven, fear-mongering campaign in the history of the nation — it is likely that going to school will remain off the table for the foreseeable future. And no group is more adamant about maintaining that status quo than one of America's prominent teachers unions.

"We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance," stated United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Cecily Myart-Cruz. "We need to get this right for our communities."

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner concurred. "We made the decision to close school facilities before there was any occurrence of the virus at our schools, and this proved to be the right call," he asserted. "Science was our guide then, and it will continue to be."

Science? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 children under age 15 have died from COVID-19. By contrast, in a typical year, 190 children die of the flu, 436 from suicide, 625 from homicide, and 4,114 from unintentional deaths. Moreover, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a group representing 67,000 pediatricians, issued a release in which it "strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school."

The AAP outlined a number of guidelines that should be followed with regard to minimizing the spread of COVID, but that wasn't the only aspect of science its experts considered. "Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation," the release adds.

Nonetheless, if there is one aspect of this pandemic that has been held hostage by media-driven political considerations, science goes to the top of the list. Thus, when President Donald Trump warned he would pressure governors by withholding federal funds from districts that refused to open, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin accused him of wanting "to kill your kids." When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated that CDC guidelines are "meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation," and that a hybrid model of virtual and in-person learning is "not a valid choice for families," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi labeled those assertions as "appalling."

That Sweden's schools have remained open throughout the pandemic, and nations like Denmark, Austria, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand reopened in April and May, all without significant upticks in virus transmission? That there's an emerging consensus that children are not significant virus spreaders?

"All over the world ... from professors, teachers, mothers, in the United States and elsewhere," people are "stunned that we are willing to just simply destroy our children on some bizarre notion that's completely contrary to the science," asserts Dr. Scott Atlas, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center.

Atlas is naive in one respect. The world is not in the midst of a critical election season, one that will literally determine what kind of nation we are going forward. Nor is any other country in the world afflicted with a similar number of opportunistic attorneys looking to turn even a single coronavirus death occurring in a school setting into a cash cow. Nor do other nations endure a wholly unprincipled media looking to inflict as much damage as they possibly can on the current administration.

Which brings us back to the UTLA. It has issued a policy paper in which it asserts school reopenings must be contingent not just on items addressing the pandemic but on a wholly political agenda that includes placing a moratorium on charter schools — and defunding police. "Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people, and is a serious public health and moral issue," the paper stated, citing assertions made by the American Public Health Association. "We must shift the astronomical amount of money devoted to policing, to education and other essential needs such as housing and public health."

Thus, some public health is "more equal" than other public health. "Everyone who studies mental health in children is sounding the alarm; it's not just the fear, stress, and anxiety, it's the isolation," columnist Jim Geraghty states. "To the extent we can get kids safely interacting with each other again — making each other laugh again — we need to do that. We cannot allow our kids to pay the price for grownups' ideological differences or fears of lawsuits."

Leftists say, "Yes we can." Unions like the UTLA, and the Democrat Party that receives more than 90% of its campaign donations, are essentially a cartel. One so powerful that a child's zip code can literally determine whether that child will receive a decent education or be trapped in one of the many union-run "failure factories" that afflict every Democrat-controlled city in the nation. It is a cartel that also despises competition, which is why the UTLA and other unions seek to undermine charter schools, even though the public favors them by a two-to-one margin — a ratio that increases to three-to-one among the black Americans about whom unions and Democrats purport to care so deeply.

"We are so cowed with fear by the unknown potential of this virus that we are willing to sacrifice everything in service to its eradication, which is not even remotely guaranteed," writes columnist Libby Emmons. "If our nation plunges into chaos at the hands of a generation of people who know nothing about math, science, civics, history, or literature, who get their information from endless YouTube gaming videos, it will not be the fault of the pandemic, but our own."

Emmons is also somewhat naive. Our nation has already been plunged into chaos by progressives who see that chaos as their surest route to permanent power. And just as it has for the better part of 60 years, the education cartel views thousands of students who know nothing about math, science, civics, history, or literature — and the ultimate dependency on big government such cultivated ignorance engenders — as cannon fodder for the cause.

Thus, it is hardly surprising that a Reuters analysis of 57 school districts reveals that fewer than half take attendance, approximately a third weren't providing required services to special-needs students, and 47 of 57 are providing elementary and middle-school students with half or less than the usual face time with teachers.

The UTLA? As The Wall Street Journal reveals, its "pandemic collective-bargaining agreement prohibited schools from requiring face-to-face online instruction such as Zoom or Skype. Teachers also don't have to work more than four hours per day."

The kids? No classes, no sports, no clubs, no dances, no socialization, no nothing that resembles normalcy. "Keeping schools closed is a way to ensure discord and perpetrate inequity, lawlessness, and stupidity for generations to come," Emmons warns.

Despite all denials, the educational cartel wouldn't have it any other way.


With no end in sight to the coronavirus, some teachers are retiring rather than go back to school

When Christina Curfman thought about whether she could return to her second-grade classroom in the fall, she struggled to imagine the logistics. How would she make sure her 8-year-old students kept their face masks on all day? How would they do hands-on science experiments that required working in pairs? How would she keep six feet of distance between children accustomed to sharing desks and huddling together on one rug to read books?

“The only way to keep kids six feet apart is to have four or five kids,” says Curfman, a teacher at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Virginia, who typically has 22 students in a class. Her district shut schools on March 12, and at least 55 staff members have since tested positive for the coronavirus. “Classrooms in general are pretty tight,” she says. “And then how do you teach a reading group, how do you teach someone one-on-one from six feet apart? You can’t.”

So Curfman—who has an autoimmune disease that makes her more vulnerable to COVID-19—consulted her doctor, weighed the risks of returning to school and decided to retire early after 28 years of teaching. At 55, she’s eligible for partial retirement benefits and will take home less pay than if she had worked for a few more years, but the decision gave her peace of mind.

“It’s either that or risk your health,” she says. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

Recent surveys suggest she’s not alone. Faced with the risks of an uncertain back-to-school plan, some teachers, who spent the last few months teaching over computers and struggling to reach students who couldn’t access online lessons, are choosing not to return in the fall. The rising number of coronavirus cases in many parts of the country, and recent evidence that suggests the virus can spread indoors via tiny respiratory droplets lingering in the air, have fueled teachers’ safety concerns, even as President Trump demands that schools fully reopen and threatens to cut federal funding from those that don’t. (Trump has said that older teachers, who are more vulnerable to the virus, could “sit it out for a little while, unless we come up with the vaccine sooner.”)

About 20% of teachers said they aren’t likely to return to teaching if schools reopen in the fall, according to a USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted in late May. EdWeek Research Center surveys conducted around the same time found that more than 10% of teachers are more likely to leave the profession now than they were before the pandemic, and 65% of educators said they want school buildings to remain closed to slow the spread of the virus.

But the pressure to reopen schools is strong. Recent studies show that students have likely suffered significant learning loss during this period of remote schooling, worsening the achievement gap between affluent and low-income students.

Meanwhile, research shows that children are much less likely to suffer the most severe health effects of the virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance on June 25, recommending that all back-to-school policies aim to have “students physically present in school,” citing the importance of in-person learning and raising concerns about social isolation, abuse and food insecurity for children forced to remain at home. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, agrees. “I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school,” he said during testimony before the Senate on June 30.


China rebrands Confucius Institutes in effort to quell global backlash

The South China Morning Post reported that Chinese-funded Confucius Institutes will rebrand amid global backlash.
Multiple U.S. lawmakers as well as U.S. intelligence agencies have said Confucius Institutes are nothing more than propaganda centers.

Chinese media is reporting that China will rebrand its Confucius Institutes amid backlash from critics, including the U.S. intelligence community, which has said the institutes act as international propaganda centers for the Chinese Communist Party.

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed a bill that cuts off some federal funding to U.S. colleges that operate Confucius Institutes. However, Campus Reform has identified more than 75 still active Confucius Institutes on America’s college campuses. American lawmakers have called for the closure of Confucius Institutes across the nation because they say the centers pose a threat to America’s national security.

Some universities have responded to these fears by closing Confucius Institutes on their campuses. Others, meanwhile, have held that while Confucius Institutes on other campuses might pose a threat, that's certainly not the case for their college.

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing has decided to rename Hanban, the headquarters for its Confucius Institutes, to the "Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation." The SCMP is owned by the Chinese company Alibaba, which has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

The purpose of the new centre would be to “uphold the concept of openness, inclusiveness, and respect, trust, and strive to provide assistance to people from all over the world in learning Chinese as much as possible” Ma Jianfei, deputy director and Communist Party secretary of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, said during the online National Chinese Language Conference in June.

“The Center for Language Education and Cooperation hopes to continue to increase cooperation with relevant institutions in the United States, jointly build a more focused, pragmatic, and efficient new model of China-US language exchange, and make efforts to promote cultural exchanges between China and the United States and enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples,” Jianfei continued.

Professor at the International School of Tongji University in Shanghai Sun Yixue told the South China Morning Post that the name change was “related to various kinds of pressure, but it is by no means succumbing to them.”

“It is a manifestation of Chinese culture that regards harmony as a precious cultural tradition,” Sun continued.

“It is a timely adjustment made by China to adapt to the new situation of world language and cultural exchanges, but this does not mean that all overseas Confucius Institutes should be renamed accordingly,”  Yixue concluded.


Monday, July 20, 2020

School-closing costs are crushing children and parents

There are lots of compelling reasons for schools to reopen in the fall. Children need the educational, social and psychological benefits that a normal, five-day school week provides. Working parents need relief. Teachers and school staffers need the work. Here’s another: The global economy will suffer along with the future earnings of today’s students if they don’t.

A consensus estimate among economists is that an additional year of schooling increases wages by around 9%. If last spring and this fall should be written off, then keeping the schools closed may lead to a significant reduction in future earnings for today’s students. My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that represents a loss of over $30,000 per decade in earnings for a typical worker who graduated high school but didn’t attend college. The longer schools are closed, the larger the hit future earnings will take.

Of course, this is a simplification. Virtual learning isn’t the same as no learning, and the rate of return on an additional year of schooling will vary a lot from student to student. But the basic point holds: Keeping kids out of school is likely to take a significant sum of money out of their pockets when they get older and go to work.

And because virtual learning is closer to no learning for many lower-income households — due, for example, to less reliable internet access, home environments less conducive to studying, and parents whose jobs make it harder for them to stay at home and monitor schooling activity throughout the day — keeping schools closed this fall would likely reduce the future earnings of today’s poorer kids the most.

The economic damage from so many young people receiving an inadequate education adds up. A World Bank economics working paper notes that in mid-April, 192 countries had closed all schools and universities, affecting 1.5 billion youths, or 90% of the world’s learners. To estimate the global economic effects of the shutdown, the authors assumed a four-month closure and, conservatively, that only 10% of students suffer learning loss from virtual learning. They found that future global output and incomes will be trillions of dollars lower due to the shutdown, with a loss equivalent to 15% of future GDP. If schools are closed for another four months this fall, the losses will grow much larger.

Parents’ economic outcomes will suffer if schools are closed in the fall, as well. If schools don’t reopen, some parents, including many low-income parents, will have to decide between facilitating home learning for their kids and going to work at all. Parents who can continue to work remotely will effectively be on a part-time schedule. Many employers are going to be less and less forgiving of the need to juggle parenting and work.

To some degree, the negative effects of working from home while looking after kids are cumulative. This spring, many parents were in survival mode, doing what needed to be done — and only that — each day. But if four months of virtual working and virtual learning happening under the same roof turns into 10, a cohort of parents of young kids in their prime working years will increasingly miss out on the opportunity do longer-term, deeper, creative work. This will hurt their careers. It will hurt the overall economy as well, as around one-quarter of workers have a child under the age of 13.

The U.S. is stumbling through the pandemic. When it comes to reopening schools, the absence of strategic thinking on a nationwide scale is on stark display. The plan is to have an open economy but return to virtual learning? You can’t have the former if you have the latter. This wishful thinking is destructive.

The U.S. should be prioritizing what is most important to society. At the top of the list should be children’s futures and current livelihoods. Socializing in bars should be at the bottom of the list. And yet the decisions of mayors and governors to allow frivolities means that the U.S. will have to cut back where it hurts the most, not the least.

Measures should be taken to protect teachers and students when schools reopen. But even with those measures, open schools would likely increase the transmission rate of the virus, so other steps should be taken to slow the spread. Washington should be providing leadership and guidance to local schools districts on how to reopen, along with funding to help them do so safely.

Whether schools reopen this fall is a test of the U.S.’s seriousness as a nation. This is one test that children are counting on adults to pass.


Ignoring Science, Pelosi Dems Fight Reopening Schools

With a record-shattering 7.5 million jobs created in May and June, it’s clear the American people are ready to get back to work and are finding ways to do so safely.

Yet Democrats fight relentlessly against an economic recovery, willing to make children and parents suffer at least through the November elections. They understand that millions of parents depend on their children being in school during work hours.

According to one survey, 60% of parents had no help caring for their children during the shutdowns, and they can’t return to work if schools don’t reopen. That is likely why nearly 60% of parents favor reopening schools, even if 70% of parents acknowledge at least some risk. (Of course there’s risk. There’s risk every time you put your kid in a car, too, but life is about managing risks, not eliminating them entirely.)

President Donald Trump has called for a full reopening of schools in the fall, even going so far as threatening to cut federal education funding for schools that don’t. After all, why should schools get taxpayer funding if they refuse to open?

Speaking of risk, however, Trump’s stance is arguably politically risky, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intends to exploit and increase that risk. Pelosi accused Trump of “messing with the health of our children,” claiming, “Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus. They ignore science.”

Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post’s ostensibly “conservative” columnist, went a step further, accusing President Trump of wanting to “kill your kids.”

It can’t ever be a mere policy disagreement; it must be an existential battle between good and evil. Then again, it seems a tad disingenuous for Democrats, who openly support murdering millions of preborn children, to pretend to care if a few kids get sick.

In reality, it is Rubin and the Pelosi/Schumer Democrats who are ignoring the science. We now have ample data showing school-age children are by far the least susceptible to infection by the COVID-19 virus. In the U.S., children represent 22% of the population but only 1.7% of all COVID-19 infections. According to the CDC, only 30 children under age 15 have died from COVID-19 — less than one-sixth the number that die each year from the flu.

In other words, the chances of children under 18 contracting COVID-19 is exceedingly small, and the chances of them dying from it is almost nonexistent.

But wait! These kids may not get sick from the virus, but Democrats and their teachers-union accomplices insist they are veritable germ factories who will spread the virus to their teachers and administrators and bring it back home to mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa!

Is that true? A study from the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment finds that, after reopening schools in early May, there has not been a single report of an employee infected by a child. A French study found that “despite three introductions of the virus into three primary schools, there appears to have been no further transmission of the virus to other pupils or teaching and non-teaching staff of the schools.”

Furthermore, schools in Germany, Singapore, Norway, Denmark, and Finland reopened months ago and haven’t experienced outbreaks, or even a significant rise in cases.

As it turns out, despite Pelosi’s ludicrous, fear-mongering claims, the science shows the far greater danger for children is in not returning to school. The 67,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates” that every public policy for the upcoming year “start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

The APA explains why: “The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos supports President Trump’s decision to push schools to reopen in the fall under CDC guidelines. “There will be exceptions to the rule, but the rule should be kids go back to school this fall,” DeVos said. “And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with school by school or a case-by-case basis. There’s ample opportunity to have kids in school.”

But Democrats and teachers unions continue to vigorously fight a return to school. One of the nation’s largest teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers, claims an additional $116 billion in federal funding is needed to safely reopen. That would be more than it cost the U.S. to rebuild Europe after WWII under the Marshall Plan. That’s a lot of Lysol!

Proving the entirely political objections to reopening, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) demands a shutdown of charter schools and a defunding of the police before returning to work.

Keri Rodrigues, a former teachers-union organizer-turned-National Parents Union founder, is highly critical of teachers unions’ objections. She blames unions for fighting against accountability and innovation and wanting only to maintain the status quo, even to the detriment of our children, who are already falling far behind academically. Many children receive an hour or less of instruction per day.

For all these reasons and more, the truth is obvious. We must reopen the schools this fall.


Despicable Behavior of Today's Academicians
The Michigan State University administration pressured professor Stephen Hsu to resign from his position as vice president of research and innovation because he touted research that found police are not more likely to shoot black Americans. The study found: “The race of a police officer did not predict the race of the citizen shot. In other words, black officers were just as likely to shoot black citizens as white officers were.” For political reasons, the authors of the study sought its retraction.

The U.S. Department of Education warned UCLA that it may impose fines for improperly and abusively targeting white professor Lt. Col. W. Ajax Peris for disciplinary action over his use of the n-word while reading to his class Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that contained the expressions “when your first name becomes "n—r,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are). Referring to white civil rights activists King wrote, “They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as 'dirty n—r-lovers.’”

Boston University is considering changing the name of its mascot Rhett because of his link to “Gone with the Wind.” Almost 4,000 Rutgers University students signed a petition to rename campus buildings Hardenbergh Hall, Frelinghuysen Hall and Milledoler Hall because these men were slave owners. University of Arkansas students petitioned to remove a statue of J. William Fulbright because he was a segregationist who opposed the Brown v. Board of Education that ruled against school segregation.

The suppression of free speech and ideas by the elite is nothing new. It has a long ugly history. Galileo Galilei was a 17th-century Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes called “father of modern physics.” The Catholic Church and other scientists of his day believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Galileo offered evidence that the Earth traveled around the sun — heliocentrism. That made him “vehemently suspect of heresy” and was forced to recant and sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition and was later commuted to house arrest for the rest of his life.

Much of today’s totalitarianism, promotion of hate and not to mention outright stupidity, has its roots on college campuses. Sources that report on some of the more egregious forms of the abandonment of free inquiry, hate and stupidity at our colleges are: College Reform and College Fix.

Prof. William S. Penn, who was a Distinguished Faculty Award recipient at Michigan State University in 2003, and a two-time winner of the prestigious Stephen Crane Prize for Fiction, explained to his students, “This country still is full of closet racists.” He said: “Republicans are not a majority in this country anymore. They are a bunch of dead white people. Or dying white people.”

The public has recently been treated to the term — white privilege. Colleges have long held courses and seminars on “whiteness.” One college even has a course titled “Abolition of Whiteness.” According to some academic intellectuals, whites enjoy advantages that nonwhites do not. They earn higher income and reside in better housing, and their children go to better schools and achieve more. Based on that idea, Asian Americans have more white privilege than white people. And, on a personal note, my daughter has more white privilege than probably 95% of white Americans.

Evidence of how stupid college ideas find their way into the public arena can be seen on our daily news. Don Lemon, a CNN anchorman, said, “We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them.” Steven Clifford, former King Broadcasting CEO, said, “I will be leading a great movement to prohibit straight white males, who I believe supported Donald Trump by about 85 percent, from exercising the franchise (to vote), and I think that will save our democracy.”

As George Orwell said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” If the stupid ideas of academic intellectuals remained on college campuses and did not infect the rest of society, they might be a source of entertainment — much like a circus.


BLM's 'Anti-Racism' Curriculum in Classrooms

Even private schools are being pressured to propagate the Left's racial cult.

The neo-Marxist anti-racism cult better known as Black Lives Matter has seen tremendous success in the weeks following the unjust death of George Floyd in convincing swaths of the American public that the U.S. is a country rife with “systemic racism.” Bowing to social media pressure campaigns launched by an online army of “social justice” agitators, many American businesses have dutifully signaled their “woke” virtue, hoping to avoid becoming the next target of the cancel-culture mob.

In this intolerant, impatient, and illiberal environment, it comes as little surprise that many of America’s private schools, ironically often the source of this “woke” ideology, are now finding themselves pressured to go even farther down the rabbit hole and become full-fledged indoctrination centers for the anti-racism cult. Of course, the “woke” cult defines “racist” as any unapproved political perspective or opinion.

“Swaths of private secondary schools have since pronounced support for Black Lives Matter, or at least its principles,” reports the Washington Examiner. “Many came out with ‘anti-racism’ statements last month, following accusations from some alumni of color on 'Blackat[name of school]‘ Instagram accounts, claiming they experienced instances of racism during their time as students at the institutions. Schools then apologized to black former or current students who experienced 'systemic racism’ and described actions to eliminate ‘white supremacy.’ All the while expanding initiatives related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and promoting ‘social justice.’”

One example of this growing effort to indoctrinate students comes from George Washington University, where students read Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same as part of the school’s “Solidarity Resource Syllabus.” The book states, “Conservatism as a philosophy and ideology … is and always has been hostile to the aspirations of Africans in America, incompatible with the struggle for freedom and equality.” The author of the book, San Fransisco State University professor Robert Smith, writes, “Repeatedly I was asked, ‘Are you saying that conservatism is racism, that all conservatives are racist? Aren’t there black conservatives? Are they racists?’ … My answer to most of these questions was a qualified ‘yes.’” In other words, “wrong” political opinions now equate to “racism.”

Fortunately, some colleges are resisting. Michigan’s Hillsdale College is a great example of a principled stand. Others should follow this example.

By painting as “racist” all ideologies that don’t conform to a Marxist vision of equity and justice — insinuating that free thinkers, and not the mass-murderous tyrants of communism, are immoral — the Left hopes to end all debate and critical questioning of its agenda. This explains why so many universities are fast devolving into centers of leftist indoctrination rather than places of genuine free thought, inquiry, and education. America is not reckoning with racism; America is being hoodwinked by Marxist revolutionaries.