The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to release guidelines on how to safely reopen schools nationwide next week, but some Republican lawmakers are frustrated the Biden administration has not taken a more decisive action.
President Biden promised to get schools reopened within his first 100 days in office, telling Americans he will “listen to the scientists.”
But New York Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, wants the White House to tell teachers that due to the low transmission rates amongst young students, teachers should feel safe heading back into the classroom.
“It would be very helpful if the president and the first lady would be willing to intervene here and try to encourage America’s teachers to get back into the classrooms,” Malliotakis told Fox News’ Jon Scott Saturday. “I could tell you, the teachers that I speak to in New York City and many of those who work in our schools, they do want to go back to work and parents certainly want to have their children back in the classroom.”
But the congresswoman’s confidence in teacher’s determination to return to in-person training, is contrary to the fight playing out in the Chicago public school system.
The Chicago Teacher’s Union took to twitter Friday to say their demands for returning teachers safefly to the classroom have not been met by the city officials – prompting some teachers to threaten refusing to appear in-person.
Concerns over access to vaccines and exposing teachers to swaths of student’s in the country’s third largest school district, have many worried they could transmit the deadly coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones at home.
But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an ultimatum, telling the teachers union that if teachers refuse to show up Monday for in-person teaching, they will be deemed absent without leave and will be terminated – causing some to fear the city could have a teachers strike on their hands.
Lightfoot has not said whether or not she will follow through with her threat, instead she said the negotiations were ongoing in a statement Saturday.
“The parties have been in discussions throughout the course of the day to determine if there is a pathway toward a final, comprehensive deal,” she said. “Those discussions continue.”
But while the Biden administration is remaining silent so far on how to get schools reopened, taking their lead from the CDC, some Republicans believe it is a political ploy to drag out the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we’re seeing from our elected leaders is they want to follow the silence only when it fits their narrative and what’s politically, politically expedient for them,” Malliotakis said Saturday. “You’re seeing this on the education front with President Biden and you’re also seeing it, by the way, with reopening our restaurants here in New York City.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters earlier this week that the vaccine is not a requirement for getting teachers back in the classroom.
“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” Walensky said during a Wednesday press briefing. “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools.”
But even if teachers agree to go back to in-person training without having received a vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned in January that achieving that goal “may not happen” due to unforeseen circumstances.
Access to vaccines are ultimately the crutch of the reopening school debate, forcing lawmakers to realize the public may not want to return to normalcy until widespread vaccinations are a reality.
“We should be focusing on increasing the supply, getting that vaccination to everyone who wants to take it. And we need to reopen this economy,” Malliotakis told Fox News. “And I don’t see that balanced approach and continue to advocate for.”