Spring break usually means a giddy escape from the classroom for children across America. This year, however, the millions of students who have not set foot in a classroom since last spring are celebrating by closing their laptops for a few days. Many of these students have no prospect of returning to class anytime soon — and their pandemic-shuttered schools have become the focus of an ugly battle among teachers’ unions, school boards, parents, and elected officials about how, and when, they should reopen.
As the politics of reopening have grown increasingly antagonistic and personal, the pandemic is blurring partisan and racial cleavages around public education and creating new coalitions that could remain powerful players in local education politics. At stake is the fate of our public education system itself.