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Why Black Parents Aren’t Joining the Push to Reopen Schools

Few issues this year have been as rife with division and drama as the on-again, off-again efforts of school districts to restart in-person learning. President Biden vowed to open most public schools in his first 100 days—but his pledge was quickly scaled back to only a majority of elementary schools. Both Republican and Democratic governors have directed schools to open; teachers unions have balked at returning until staff is vaccinated; and parents across the political spectrum have protested and petitioned to resume in-person learning. Citing the need to reduce COVID-related learning gaps and provide working parents some relief, education systems sought to bring at least some younger students back to classrooms.

Amid the fierce debate, Black parents across the country have largely resisted the push to return to public schools. According to a December report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 62 percent of white parents strongly or somewhat agreed that school should reopen this fall, while less than half of Black parents agreed. In a Pew Research survey conducted in mid-February, Black adults were the most likely of all racial groups to worry about the health risks of reopening—80 percent of Black adults wanted kids to stay remote until teachers were vaccinated, for example, while only 51 percent of white adults felt the same.

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