Teachers unions are an integral part of the movement against reopening public schools as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the country.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board, however, noted in August that teachers unions are only protecting their own interests and by opposing reopening, hurt not only the education system in the long term but also the roughly 50 million students who attend public schools.
Millions of students are scheduled to shift back to remote learning after weeks, if not months, of attending classes in person. Government authorities in states like Kentucky, Michigan and New York recently announced similar plans and roughly 40% of students are already attending only virtual classes, USA Today reported.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: starting tomorrow, all @NYCschools buildings are CLOSED for in-person learning until further notice. All students who were learning in school buildings part of the week will transition to remote learning every day. Visit https://t.co/a6osApfhy7 for more. pic.twitter.com/LhuVmiGTYi
— NYC Public Schools (@NYCSchools) November 18, 2020
National and local teachers union leaders have long promoted efforts to keep their members from returning to the classroom. But they have also used the pandemic as an opportunity “to squeeze more money from taxpayers and put their private and public charter school competition out of business,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the largest teachers unions in the country, released a statement earlier this year threatening to support teacher strikes until safety measures like contact tracing, mask requirements and social distancing guidelines were implemented.
“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten said. But other demands from the ATF are arguably motivated by political calculations rather than public safety concerns. (RELATED: Trump Wants Schools To Reopen, And Teachers Unions Are Pushing Back. What Do Parents Want?)
Teachers unions in July released a list of demands addressing the coronavirus pandemic and progressive political causes, NBC News reported. Included in their list was a call to cancel rent and evictions, place a moratorium on new charter or voucher programs, end standardized testing and provide more federal money to public school teachers paid for with tax hikes.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board called the plan “political extortion.” Teachers unions have shown more interest in “issuing ultimatums and threatening strikes until they are granted their ideological wish list” rather than actually working to reopen schools safely. “Children, who would have to endure more lost instruction, are their hostages,” the editorial board noted.
Members of the Trump administration and public health professionals alike have supported reopening schools since remote learning protocols were established at the onset of the pandemic. (RELATED: Schools Haven’t Become Coronavirus Super-Spreaders, Economist’s Analysis Finds)
President Donald Trump has been a staunch advocate of reopening schools. He stated in remarks Aug. 12 that both children and teachers are at a lower risk of contracting the coronavirus, and that the social costs to children and families of keeping schools closed outweigh the health risks of safely reopening in-person classes.
The White House held its first coronavirus task briefing in months Friday, during which both Vice President Mike Pence and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield stated that schools were generally not where people became infected with the coronavirus. “They were actually acquired within the community and the household,” Redfield said.
In a surprising admission, a New York Times op-ed Wednesday noted that the science actually backed Trump on school closures over Democrats and their allies.
“Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right,” wrote Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommended that schools continue to reopen in a statement earlier this year, citing the growing consensus among experts that schools are generally not a major source of transmission.
“The importance of in person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the public health organization added. (RELATED: Lack Of Internet, Technology, Meals: Teachers Detail Pitfalls Of Remote Teaching During Coronavirus Crisis)
Even as experts begin to re-examine the effects of remote learning and shutting down schools, teachers unions have been ever more persistent in their demands.
One area where teachers unions have enormous leverage is staffing. Department of Education data shows that roughly three-fourths of all teachers are part of a union or employees’ association. By threatening boycotts and targeting schools, teachers unions could have a devastating impact on the education system — all while squeezing out taxpayers who fund those schools.
The largest factor in determining whether a school halts in-person instruction is if there are enough staff members to operate classrooms, USA Today reported. Teachers unions would be jeopardizing the prospects of schools reopening by keeping their members away from the classroom.
What teachers unions have been claiming on school safety is ultimately not backed by a growing scientific consensus. Instead they are arguably holding schoolchildren hostage while trying to line their own pockets through far-fetched financial demands. (RELATED: Children Rarely Spread Coronavirus To Each Other, Adults, Multiple Studies Show)
“If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Americans are getting a closer look at the true, self-interested character of today’s teachers unions,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board concluded.