Closed schools are a harmful inequity, but teachers’ unions don’t give a damn

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In New York City and nationally, school shutdowns without question do the most harm to minority, low-income and special-needs students. And it’s beyond outrageous that the teacher-union leaders who are behind the most egregious public-school closures pretend the opposite.

They’re making things easier on the members, knowing full well that it hurts the kids they claim to care about. How convenient, and how obscenely cynical, for the likes of Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, to say that reopening schools would harm black children.

Once again: All the science shows that schools are highly COVID-safe. Much of Europe has kept its schools open all pandemic long, at least for preteens, who almost never contract the bug and so don’t transmit it. In this country, only areas with over-powerful teachers’ unions have suffered prolonged school shutdowns. All that would have provided ample horror stories for the unions to cite if there were any danger at all.

And remote learning, at least as regular US public schools have attempted it, is an unmitigated disaster. Most children barely interact with their teachers. The few educators who work their hearts out to actually teach are all-too-rare exceptions.

Without question, poor and minority students suffer most. Just for starters, they’re far more likely to have connectivity issues and to have started the pandemic without the devices needed for remote classes. And their parents are less likely to be in a position to fill in the gaps or even to ensure that children actually link up and pay attention.

Yet, thanks to the unions, they’re the ones most likely consigned to the “remote” tragedy. The American Enterprise Institute’s Return2Learn tracker revealed that as recently as January, one-third of white students were in fully remote districts, compared with about half of black and Hispanic students. About 47 percent of all Hispanic-American students attend school in majority-Hispanic districts where in-person learning is limited.

Plus, as Jack Elbaum noted recently in these pages, “while poor kids are locked out of in-person learning, the wealthy can place their kids in private schools that long ago reopened.” Catholic schools have opened safely, too — in the very same cities where unions have kept public schools shuttered.

The unions are increasing educational inequality all across America.

Education can be a lifeline for these children, offering skills and knowledge their parents aren’t in a position to share. Yes, New York City’s public schools, like those in all too many US cities, fall short for these children in normal times. But this is an entire year utterly lost.

So the unions resort to lies. Back in December, the Chicago Teachers Union — an AFT chapter — claimed that the push to reopen schools was “rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.” No evidence or argument, just name-calling, even though the student body is overwhelmingly minority. The union also sued to prevent the school district from moving forward with its Jan. 11 reopening plan and threatened a strike. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had to threaten a “lockout” of teachers working remotely to get the union to bend at all. Now the target date is April 19, and the union is still resisting.

To Lightfoot’s fury, the CTU even whined that discussing “learning-loss” is a harmful way to look at students. Harmful to the CTU, actually.

San Francisco city leaders even resorted to suing the independently run school district and education board in a bid to get kids back into public-school classrooms.

Heck, even putting teachers at the head of the line for vaccinations doesn’t move the unions. New York City educators have had three months to get jabbed, yet United Federation of Teachers boss Mike Mulgrew still resists any hint of making his members go back to in-person work.

At the unions’ behest, New York state has also made all standardized testing an opt-in affair. The clear goal: Make it as hard as possible for parents to realize how far behind their kids have fallen. Yet studies show that many young children have suffered grievously — and that doesn’t even consider the mental-health impacts, witnessed in rising teen-suicide rates.

At this point, it’s only teachers’ unions and politicians subservient to them that deny the obvious.

For decades, these unions have demanded ever-higher pay and ever-more perks in the name of better serving the children, with endless talk about social justice. But teachers’ unions this last year have proved that the kids come last; science and social justice are irrelevant.

They’re nothing but a pack of selfish pigs, mouthing pieties they refuse to live by. They care about nothing but their own most selfish interests.

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