School closures are hurting current and future workforce; parents should have choice to send children back to school safely, regardless of socio-economic status

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, business organizations from across California delivered a unified message to urge state and local leaders to work with Governor Gavin Newsom to follow the science and the lessons we’ve learned over the last 11 months and reopen public schools immediately. The prolonged closure of California public schools is hurting the current and future workforce, economic recovery and the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of children.

Click here to download a recording of the press conference.

“We believe the business community can be a partner to help tackle the challenges ahead for our region, with solutions to ensure our communities, the economy, and families are healthy and thriving,” said Maria S. Salinas, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “The realities of this pandemic – the loss, economic devastation, and the inequities experienced – are heartbreaking. And nowhere are they more evident than in the effects from our schools closing. We urge the safe reopening of schools, with the implementation of appropriate safety protocols and the prioritization of schools in underserved communities, ensuring they receive the help they need first.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the pandemic started a year ago, nearly 3 million U.S. women have dropped out of the labor force as they have been forced to assume caretaking and homeschooling duties. Before the pandemic, women consisted of more than 50% of the country’s workforce, underlining their importance to the economy. In a recent CBS Evening News interview, President Biden called the sudden loss of women in the workforce a “national emergency.”

“The longer we wait to reopen, the more we risk Black students failing behind and entrepreneurs and small business closing for good,” stated Edwin Lombard, president and CEO of the California African American Chamber of Commerce. “Let’s be clear: the school shutdowns are putting the future of Black children at an academic and economic disadvantage. Some families and students may be excelling with distance learning, but for students and families who have been struggling for these last 11 months, there must be an option to return to in-person learning now.”

A study by McKinsey predicts that learning loss now will mean wage loss in the future, which will only get worse as schools remain closed unnecessarily. As with the impact of distance learning, this wage loss will disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic workers, exacerbating generational income disparities.

“The Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Fauci and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that we can and should reopen schools now. Expensive private schools and learning pods are operating in-person instruction safely and have been for months, providing higher-income families with choices on the best educational option for their children. It is only public school students who are paying the price of this prolonged closure,” said Sandy Cajas, president of the Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We know that there is a way to keep kids and teachers safe in schools. But keeping schools closed will exacerbate the existing achievement gaps and leave a generation of children behind.”

In December, Harvard and Brown University recently amended their July recommendation that said to close schools if the daily case rate rose above 25 cases per 100,000 people stating, “we can now recommend that schools be open even at the very high levels of spread we are now seeing, provided that they strictly implement strategies of infection control.”  In neighboring Oregon, schools can reopen in-person elementary and hybrid transition education when county case counts per 100,000 are 350 or below.

“The data and our collective experience and knowledge developed over the past 11 months says it’s safe to reopen schools,” said Robert Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “Other states have reopened schools at much higher case rates and proven that with proper mitigation measures, schools can be safe for both students and teachers. ‘Conditional’ reopening proposals not backed by science or data, including mandated vaccination of teachers, will only create more barriers to bringing kids back into the classroom. It’s time our state and local leaders muster up the courage and political will to stand up and do what’s best for our children. It’s time to put the well-being of kids first, not special interest groups.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters in a White House briefing last week, “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen, and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated. Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.”



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