Thanks to the new COVID-19 vaccines, herd immunity isn’t far off and recovery from the ravages of the pandemic is near. Restaurants, small businesses and sports venues are reopening. Masks will be removed, hotels will be repopulated and air travel will pick up. Long overdue, however, is the reopening of public schools.
I emphasize “public” schools to differentiate them from private, charter and religious schools; many of which have long been open. What one word captures the difference between these schools and traditional public schools? Unions!
The pandemic has clearly revealed the true nature of teachers unions. This isn’t a revelation to many of us who’ve been on to them for decades. For others, their eyes have finally been opened. I’ve coined an acronym to describe the affliction of those well-intentioned politically naïve parents: CATPS (pronounced CAT-piss), an acronym for Chronic Adult Teacher’s Pet Syndrome. It applies to folks like soccer moms and volunteers for parent-teacher associations who help out with bake sales (but get no say in essential school policy). They confuse the sweet young kindergarten teacher who lives down the block with the self-interested, bare-knuckles street-fighters who run the union.
Teachers unions oppose school choice — like charter schools or private school vouchers for the poor and minorities — in order to protect their monopoly on the delivery of public education with taxpayer dollars.
When they’re nagging the public for higher pay, more fringe benefits, iron-clad job security and less accountability their campaign slogan is, “It’s for the children.” Baloney. Labor unions don’t work that way. They work for their rank-and-file members, not the customers. In a rare candid moment, the late Albert Shanker, a pioneer in teacher unionization and long-time head of the American Federation of Teachers said it all, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”
Note how Cecily Myart-Cruz, the teachers union president in Los Angeles, resorted to fear and emotion over reason: “When Gov. Gavin Newsom says schools are safe to reopen without vaccines, he should tell us what he believes the safe number of deaths associated with that would be.” I’d say their risk is a lot lower than that of front-line responders like cops, fire fighters, EMT’s, docs, nurses, private and charter school teachers, and others who did their jobs without vaccines. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explains, “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated.” In fact, school teachers are less likely to be infected in their classroom than out in the community. And school-age kids have only a one-tenths of one percent chance of dying from the virus.
Suicide rates among students have soared. Socialization and emotional development are suffering. They’re falling behind in learning and some, especially at-risk minority children, may never catch up. That’ll show up in higher drop-out rates. Student athletes are frustrated; some may lose out on college scholarships. Parents are forced to stay home from work and are stressed-out from dealing with the kids all day, who’d normally be in school.
A recent poll in the Epoch Times reported that 86% of parents with school-aged children want schools to be open full-time immediately. 68% said their children have fallen behind due to remote schooling. One respondent said, “My fifth grader who LOVED school now hates it and is obviously depressed.” Another said, “My child used to get A’s and B’s, now he gets D’s and F’s.” And another lamented, “What these shutdowns have done to our children is horrible, and any politician that supports them should be removed from office.”
In Republican states like Florida, where teachers unions wield less power, public schools have been open since last September without negative consequence. The kids are actually learning and have avoided the social and emotional damage. It’s mostly in Democrat-controlled states like California, New York and Illinois where unions reign supreme that schools are closed. In Chicago, the teachers union has belligerently opposed reopening the schools and has threatened to strike if they’re defied. The strongest opposition is found in big cities ruled by an unholy alliance of Democrat politicians, unions and the school boards who serve them.
Some teachers do want to go back to school. But others and their union leaders are happy to have been paid all these months for staying home. How’s this for a motivator: reopen the schools now and stop paying teachers who play hooky.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.
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