Teachers unions are a powerful interest that is fighting aggressively to throttle the economic recovery and prolong the coronavirus lockdowns. One might joke that they are channeling the spirit of infamous mobbed-up Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa by extorting taxpayers, parents, and children—holding them hostage with demands for “distance learning,” public schools’ pathetic substitute for classroom instruction.
The teachers unions insist that schools stay closed unless state and municipal governments concede to the entire progressive agenda of the teachers union and broader Left.
Conveniently, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers union in Los Angeles Unified School District, has all but admitted this—minus favorable reference to the missing-presumed-dead Hoffa. In a report titled “Same Storm but Different Boats,” the union demands, among other things:
- $250 million in extra taxpayer funding for Los Angeles schools,
- An additional $500 billion in federal funding,
- Government-run Medicare for All,
- A wealth tax,
- An increase in the California state income tax,
- Defunding the police,
- A ban on new charter schools, and
- Public benefits for illegal immigrants as part of the plan to reopen schools.
This is, put simply, hostage-taking politics. They are holding economic recovery and students’ education at ransom for taxpayer money and surrender to a far-left agenda. (Remember the Obama administration hysterically accusing Congressional Republicans of “hostage taking” for exercising their constitutional powers to have input in the federal spending process. Pepperidge Farm remembers.) Teachers unions know that the economic recovery depends in part on two-earner households being able to return to work and that they cannot return if one parent is chained to the house to serve as a distance-learning proctor.
And “distance learning” is not home school; that must be made clear. Under distance learning, a taxpayer-funded unionized teacher is attempting to instruct by video-link students forced to follow a government-directed curriculum spreading the government’s values on the government’s schedule. Students get the same 1619 Project “history” lessons they would get in person. They just don’t get the social experiences and routines of the school day, and at least one parent (in practice, almost universally the mother) must forgo returning to work. And single parents are given a Hobson’s choice between their children’s schooling or making money to feed them.
Not a Student Health Issue
Let us all be clear about one thing: Whatever the teachers unions’ motivation for holding children’s development and education—as well as economic recovery—hostage, it is not students’ health. Despite a mealy mouthed semi-concession to its political allies in labor unionism, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)—again, the representative body of children’s health doctors—continues to stand by its statement that “the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school” (emphasis in the original).
For whatever it’s worth, a research scientist who regularly corresponds with National Review writer Jim Geraghty concurs with the AAP’s judgment and proposes some basic, reasonable precautions that schools abroad have taken, such as masks for older students, one-way hallways, and managing students as “cohorts” who stay together rather than as individuals.
Whether schools open this fall will be a battle between teachers unions—who see an opportunity to employ a degree of political leverage that previously had only the stuff of their (fevered) dreams—and parents who need a return to work and toward normalcy.