Discourse

Teachers unions demand more money but refuse to go back to work

Our kids' education is being held hostage to union demands, while private and charter school kids get to go to school.
Libby Emmons
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY

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We're being played. And it's hard to see it, because the lies we're being told are from people we typically trust. In their efforts to control the coronavirus, our elected leaders are keeping schools closed. They're worried about the kids and the teachers contracting the virus—or at least that's what they're telling us, but it's just not true. Fear over coronavirus is a lie being used by teachers' unions so that they can parlay the virus crisis into attaining their demands.

I appreciate teachers, and the work they put into educating America's kids despite their flaws. We need teachers, we need their dedication and passion. But it's not even clear that these demands are being made on their behalf, or that most teachers wouldn't rather get off the screen and head back into the classroom.

The National Education Association is the largest union in the country with almost 2.8 million members. The American Federation of Teachers has over 800,000. And they are both using their mighty power to shame those who want the schools to open. Meanwhile, the unions are making demands—and they're not demands about virus protection, but about a whole host of wishes that they've sought to achieve previously.

Our kids' education is being held hostage to union demands, while private and charter school kids get to go to school. The AFT has demanded $116.5 billion dollars from the federal government before they will authorize public schools to reopen. Public school districts from Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, to name a few, are not opening, but their local private and charter counterparts are fully open.

Schools have proven to not be super-spreader locations for the coronavirus. Precautions are taken, masks worn, hands sanitized, children and teachers keep their distance. Private schools and day care centers have opened to serve students without incident. Yet public schools, where the bulk of American children learn and study are predominantly closed.

According to EdChoice, which ran a survey to gauge, among other things, parents optimism with regard to their children's educational progress, private and charter school parents are more positive about their children's educations gains than public school parents this fall. This could be because their children actually attend school.

In making their demands and holding American kids' education hostage until theta re met, the teachers' unions are destroying the credibility of public education. Parents only have one shot to get their kids' education right, to launch them into the knowledge economy. We've been hearing for decades how important education is—and the unions are risking our kids' future for their own gains.

The study show that parents favour charter schools, yet teacher's unions demand that charters be shut down. Their argument is that charter schools further inequity, but what really furthers inequity is having parents of means be able to give their kids an education, while parents without cannot.

How much of what unions are demanding actually has to do with ensuring the best educational environment for kids and how much is a power play to attain a bunch of progressive political promises?

Writing in Education Week, self-identified proud teacher Lyn Peticolas was horrified that anyone would insist that teachers should go back to school. She notes the high number of cases in her El Paso, Tex. community, and the adequacy of four remote, synchronous, instruction days per week, with one day where students work independently.

Peticolas points out the obvious downsides of remote learning—inequity in technology, resources, and home environment. She notes the mental damage that social isolation inflicts on students, the lack of enrichment extracurriculars, depression, and inhibited development.

But Peticolas argues that we should all have faith in the resilience and ingenuity of our youth, saying "out of these bleak times, our students will rise. Because that is what they do."

Then she switches gears, after saying that teachers should not be expected to return to school, she says that schools need more funding. This is not in service to education of America's youth, however.

Schools do too much, she alleges, they are asked to do too much, yet she wants funding to give them the chance to do way more. Her ideal public school does not prioritize children's education, but would be a building that is everything to everyone. She wants schools to fill the needs of the whole community, and this proposed funding would be a way to do that.

But schools aren't meant for the entire public—they are meant to teach out children and to provide the resources they need to learn at the highest level they can. Or at least they ought to be.

Instead of reviewing the data about the extremely limited spread in schools, and making a reasoned decision, Peticolas, as well as other teachers, use shame and moralizing to coerce parents into not speaking up to say that the risks of not opening far outweigh the risks of opening.

Kids need to be educated. School is essential. Remote learning is wholly inadequate, despite teachers efforts. Schools that are not unionized are open, and the risks have been low. Unions are sacrificing our kids because they want more—but this is wasting time that our kids simply don't have.

If teachers unions are going to refuse to educate kids, they don't need more money, they need less, and the money needs to be reallocated to parents and families so that they can use it to actually get an education for their kids. The ideal scenario is a vibrant public school system, but when public schools' traditional advocates are refusing to let education happen, parents need options or their kids, and the nation, will pay the price.

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