“I’m gonna find me
A hole in the wall
I’m gonna crawl inside and die.”– Talmadge Caldwell
Okay, on second thought maybe the song lyric for today is a little on the overdramatic side. We approach another school year with a governor and governing body that seem to be making every decision possible with safety finishing dead last. Dead last just might be an interesting way of putting it.
This is one of those cases where you have to look at the totality of the decisions to see how silly they are. If you look at them in isolation they make sense on some level. When you put them together they spell possible disaster. Add in some isolated facts and you definitely get that impression.
The first major decision was the TEA’s decision not to fund online education. Some school districts have chosen to continue offering that on their own, but most cannot do it. So, they will have 100 percent of students returning to in person instruction. Take the decision in isolation and it makes sense. We know kids perform better in person and some need a shove to go back to school.
Yet, this was followed up by the governor’s decision to bar school districts from mandating masks. This happened in late May and went into place in June. This didn’t seem outrageous at the time considering the level of positives throughout the state and the fact that vaccinations were ramping up. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make sense in retrospect.
Let’s put together three isolated facts. The first isolated fact is that only 45 percent of those 12 and older have been vaccinated making Texas one of the least vaccinated states. That of course doesn’t consider elementary schools where 100 percent of the students are unvaccinated.
The second fact in question is that the delta variant is more contagious for children than the previous strain. Hospitalizations are up in general and the long-term effects are worse as well. This also doesn’t include the fact that we know more variants are coming and they likely will be more severe and contagious than the others.
Of course, the third isolated fact is that when you don’t mandate masks, people generally won’t wear them. Some private businesses have mandated them (which is their right) and people have responded negatively to that. So, the idea that people will voluntarily do it on their own is a non-starter. I don’t know if that’s a Texas thing or if that’s true of everyone. At this point, it doesn’t matter.
If you change just one of these three facts you can turn the tide. You can allow some students to continue learning at home. You can encourage more people to become vaccinated. You can allow individual districts to mandate masks if they have a surge in positive tests. Unfortunately, they are doing none of these things.
Conservatives are actively working against the vaccination rate. They are also contributing to the reluctance to wear masks by preventing local entities from requiring them and their general tenor towards them. We are forcing students back in school without outfitting schools with the necessary technology and infrastructure to prevent transmission. If we knew any better we would say they actually want people to die.
What’s frustrating is that they wouldn’t have to reverse all of these decisions. All they have to do is reverse one. They could allow those that are immunocompromised or concerned about safety to learn at home. If they don’t want to do that, they could mandate that all people within the schools wear masks to be safe. If they don’t want to do that they could mandate every adult that works in a school to be vaccinated unless a doctor says they can’t.
It’s not like we haven’t done these things before. Students have to have certain vaccinations to attend school. We survived a year mandating masks last year. We survived a year with a hefty percentage of students learning at home. We’ve done all of these things and we are just asking for one of them to continue. I don’t even care which one. You pick one.