Gilbert and Testa: Democratic refusal to open schools is on the ballot in Virginia and New Jersey in 2021

Virginia House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert and New Jersey Senator Michael Testa today penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner highlighting how the refusal of their Democrat-controlled governments to open schools for full-time in person learning is doing irreparable harm to children in their respective states. The two state leaders note that the Democrats’ mishandling of the school reopening issue and poor response to COVID-19 overall will be on the ballot in 2021.

Democratic refusal to open schools is on the ballot in Virginia and New Jersey in 2021
Todd Gilbert and Michael Testa
Washington Examiner
March 8, 2021

President Biden claimed he would unite the country, turn down the temperature, and forge bipartisan consensus, but he has spent his first month in office unilaterally killing jobs through executive orders and trying to pass a partisan stimulus package that has little to do with defeating COVID-19. The president is failing to live up to his campaign rhetoric, and all people are now finding out what it’s like to live under complete Democratic control during a pandemic.

We’ve been dealing with this dynamic for months already in our home states of Virginia and New Jersey, as we’ve watched our liberal governors and Democratic-led legislatures mishandle our COVID-19 responses time and time again

The greatest failure of all has been their politicization of our children’s education.

State Democrats in Virginia have opposed legislation to open schools as recently as late February. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy and his Democratic allies in the Legislature have attempted to absolve themselves of all responsibility regarding reopening schools by punting those decisions to the district level. The result: Twice as many districts in the state are conducting all-remote or hybrid instruction compared to districts that are fully open.

This data should make it easy for both parties to work together to get children back in the classroom, but the teachers unions are getting in the way. And Democrats in our states are so afraid to stand up to the union bosses that fund their campaigns that they are ignoring the same metrics they used to champion when it comes to reopening. They are so concerned with what’s best for their political futures that they are ignoring what’s best for the future of our children.

Make no mistake, every day that our children are confined to learning from home is another day they cannot get back. Academic performances are suffering, with the number of middle and high school students in Fairfax County, Virginia, failing two or more classes nearly doubling since the start of the pandemic. A recent study by McKinsey and Company noted that this loss in learning could already be costing children tens of thousands in lifetime earnings and that the impact “will probably be greatest among low-income, black, and Hispanic students.”

Democrats also fail to realize that not only do schools provide academic instruction, but they also give a much-needed support structure for our children. They offer nutritious meals, mental health therapy, safety, and the opportunity to build friendships and critical social skills. 

The stakes are becoming too dire, and parents know they cannot wait any longer to start taking their children’s education into their own hands, which is why over 500,000 students from 33 states have been pulled out of the public education system since December 2020. While those families may have the means to pay taxes that go toward public education on top of alternative forms of instruction, low-income families cannot do the same. If Democrats continue to block efforts to open schools for in-person learning, they will drastically accelerate the socioeconomic learning gap they claim to be in favor of shrinking.

Their actions over the past few months make clear that Democrats in Washington and in states such as ours have no interest in reversing course. They will keep ignoring the science, keep placating the teachers unions, and keep our children out of the classroom, all because they control all branches of their respective governments and have the power to do so.

The good news is that the 2021 elections will offer voters their first chance to make a judgment on the Democratic control that has our children suffering. A vote for state Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey in 2021 is a vote to reject the Democrats’ top-down, anti-student agenda and to let children learn.