US educators confront Democrats and the unions in battle to close schools and save lives

In its first week in office, the Biden administration has begun to fulfill its pledge to reopen the majority of schools across the United States during the worst stage of the pandemic. Officially, there have now been 25,861,597 infections and 431,392 deaths from COVID-19 in the US alone, with a seven-day moving average of 3,182 people dying every day.

Biden’s reckless plan to reopen schools has the full support of Democratic Party politicians in every major city, as well as their backers in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), and their state and local affiliates, including so-called “progressive” locals such as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and others.

AFT President Randi Weingarten (left), First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and NEA President Becky Pringle at January 21 White House meeting

The CTU is being presented by the corporate media as oppositional, despite only taking a strike vote three weeks after allowing schools to reopen. The union has accepted the return to classrooms of pre-K and special education teachers and students, which continued Monday despite the massive 71 percent vote in support of a strike. They have engaged in over 60 secret negotiations with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials and are desperately trying to reach a deal by Wednesday, when CPS is demanding that K-8 teachers return to classrooms before thousands more students return next Monday.

Democratic Party officials decided to back away from their threat to lock teachers out on Monday for an “illegal strike” and are in engaged in frenzied talks with the union to find some way to package a return-to-school deal before Wednesday.

At the union’s Monday morning press conference, CTU President Jesse Sharkey stated, “We want to get a safe reopening agreement, that’s the goal. No one wants to be locked out of their classroom in the middle of a pandemic.” CTU Vice President State Davis Gates seconded this, stating, “We are working to get an agreement.”

After New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) set the precedent last fall in reopening the largest school district in the country, Democrats have reached agreements with teachers unions to reopen schools in Chicago, Houston, Boston, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Detroit, Salt Lake City, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Los Angeles and across California, and numerous other cities and states.

While the Trump administration and its Republican backers spearheaded school reopenings last summer and fall, Biden and the Democrats have taken up this mantle with the backing of the teachers unions. The new administration is equally committed to sacrificing lives for profit before the population is widely vaccinated and the pandemic is brought under control. With roughly half of the 56.6 million K-12 students in the US presently attending school remotely, Biden’s goal of fully reopening all schools by the end of April will vastly accelerate the spread of the pandemic.

At a press conference Monday, Biden stated casually, “We’re in this for a while. What are we now, at about 410,000 deaths? And there’s going to be more.” He added, “the predictions were we’re going to see somewhere between a total of 600,000 and 660,000 deaths before we begin to turn the corner in a major way.”

Expressing the indifference of the ruling class to the mass death and suffering they have inflicted on workers throughout the pandemic, Biden undercounted the number of deaths from COVID-19 by over 20,000 and presented another 170,000-230,000 deaths as a fait accompli.