Why Does the “Freedom” Foundation Keep Trivializing Children’s Safety?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the “Freedom” Foundation (Opt Out Today) has been playing a dangerous game of poker with our children’s safety in pursuit of a far-right political agenda. Their mission is simple: defund and privatize the public education system on behalf of their billionaire out-of-state funders. Thankfully, they’ve had no success, but it’s important to examine how extreme they’re willing to get in pursuit of their vision.

The so-called CEO, Aaron Withe, wants to take money from public schools and put it “into charter schools and frankly even private schools,” as he said on a far-right cable station recently. But the “Freedom” Foundation’s war on public schools was well underway before Covid hit America. They’ve opposed higher pay for educators, opposed smaller class sizes, and opposed increased funding for public schools – all measures that benefit a child’s growth and self-development. 

In addition to individual benefits, the public education system also levels the playing field for under-resourced communities. The guarantee of a free and quality education for any child regardless of race, background or income is one of the pillars of our democracy. An attack on public schools is an attack on giving every child the chance to succeed.

As the virus took hold of our communities and schools in 2020, the “Freedom” Foundation pushed their attack to a dangerous new level, spreading the myth that children are safe from Covid-19 in an attempt to embarrass or bully school administrators and the educators trying to keep kids safe.

This is just a sampling of their deranged and dangerous messaging during the last two years:

June 2020: When Thurston County, WA established a mask mandate to protect its citizens and students, the “Freedom” Foundation filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that masks are “junk science.” Not long after, all of Washington State was told to “mask up,” so Thurston County removed their local mandate. 

In a bizarre and inaccurate press release, an attorney from the “Freedom” Foundation declared her group had “just saved Thurston County residents and their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids the necessity of wearing masks well into the next century.”

September 2020: During a Facebook Live event, the “Freedom” Foundation’s CEO and one of their attorneys explained Covid was not a threat to children and tried to blame “government unions” for school closures:

“The cure has been worse than the disease itself. That’s especially true for kids, who in our research we found out have largely been unaffected by the coronavirus…” And “now we know that the virus does not pose a risk to children…That means that kids are more likely to die on their way to school than they are to get infected in school.” 

November 2020: On a far-right cable station, Withe criticized teachers unions for pushing safety measures that would protect educators, students, and families. He once again falsely promised that children would be safe from the virus:

“Take Governor Newsom down in California for example…he’s pursuing the agenda of the teachers unions…Kids are largely unaffected by the coronavirus, less than 100 have died in the country…we need to get kids back into school and get the education they deserve.”

April 2021: “Freedom” Foundation attorney Shella Sadovnik shared her conspiracy theory as to why schools were really closed during the pandemic:

“No, and it [school closures] doesn’t have to do with COVID safety either. Basically, they [educators’ union in Los Angeles] put their negotiating positions so high that now they can extract anything they want…”

August 2021: Yet another attorney from the group offered a dubious medical opinion on children’s health, writing

“So, if it’s statistically almost impossible for kids to die of COVID, how likely is it they’ll even contract the virus? According to the following data, of the tiny group of children who could potentially even catch COVID-19, barely one in 50 will show any long-term symptoms.”

Not surprisingly, medical science and health department records report an entirely different reality than “Freedom” Foundation staff. At the time of this writing, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported this sobering data of how Covid has clawed its way into the youngest age groups: 

“Over 12 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic; over 1.4 million of these cases have been added in the past 2 weeks. For the 26th week in a row child COVID-19 cases are above 100,000.”

Undeterred by millions of sick children, the “Freedom” Foundation pounds away with its anti-school and anti-educator propaganda in 2022. But who are they to minimize the safety and health of other peoples’ children? Do they really expect us to believe their lawyers’ opinions over that of medical professionals? 

Discarding reality in favor of partisan spin has become a trademark of the “Freedom” Foundation’s political game, and also a suitable explanation for why the group fails to succeed, year after year. We can all rest a little easier knowing that our school children, staff, and educators will remain entirely unaffected by the “Freedom” Foundation’s greedy intentions.