In the past week, I have seen cashiers, cops, postal employees, pharmacists, doctors, receptionists, nurses, bus drivers and others who work directly with the public remain on the job. Maybe they realize that if they don’t work, they will have no income. Maybe they have a sense of duty. Whatever. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they are there for us. But a growing number of teachers whose paychecks depend on taxpayer money from the above workers and others are demanding to work digitally from home, which is fine for some kids, but leaves quite a few shortchanged.
In fact, at the behest of their unions, many teachers are willing to strike if told they must return to school. To buttress support, the American Federation of Teachers announced on July 28th it will help any local chapter that decides to strike over reopening plans. While the AFT will not organize a national action, it would provide legal support and other assistance to local unions that vote to walk out.
The dramatic extent to which unionistas are going to avoid teaching is worth the educational equivalent of Razzies, awards that honor the worst cinematic under-achievements of the year. The Edu-Razzie in drama goes to the Metro Nashville Education Association which held a “die-in” a couple of weeks ago at a Nashville farmers’ market. Their suitably apocalyptic message is that “Dead students can’t learn. Dead teachers can’t teach.” Other candidates for the dubious award were the St. Paul and Minneapolis teachers unions which recently organized a march to the governor’s residence. Teachers carried signs that read “I can’t teach from a grave” and “Exactly how many dead kids is (sic) acceptable?”
At the same time teachers are refusing to be in a classroom with kids, many curiously have no reservations about protesting vociferously at often non-socially distant rallies while not wearing masks or, if they do, they are not worn properly. This happened en masse on August 3rd when teacher unionistas joined up with the Democratic Socialists of America in a “National Day of Resistance.” Here, the Edu-Razzie for hypocrisy goes to United Teachers of Los Angeles leader Cecily Myart-Cruz who, sans mask, shrieked her way through a diatribe to a non-socially distanced flock outside the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Her rant had little to do with Covid-19 or schools reopening, but rather that California needs to pass Prop. 15 in November. If successful, this initiative would undo Prop. 13 protections for businesses and subsequently raise prices on goods and services throughout the state.
In Chicago, the school district decided that in-person learning would resume in the fall, “noting that it was rooted in science and in accordance with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois State Board of Education.” But then Mayor Lori Lightfoot buckled to the demands of the Chicago Teachers Union, which threatened to strike if the reopening plan went forth. Lightfoot earns an Edu-Razzie in the Most Easily Intimidated Elected Leader category.
While teachers unions all over the country are demanding that schools remain shuttered indefinitely, the students they serve are being cheated, some irreparably. As Allison Schrager, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, notes in City Journal, “The negative effects of closed schools will be profound and generational. Economists reviewed the loss of earnings from school disruptions during World War II in Austria and Germany. They found that missing a year of school means 9.4 percent to 16.2 percent lower earnings for up to 40 years, with bigger losses for children with less educated parents.”
The lack of in-person schooling is especially tough on low-income and minority kids, whom the teachers unions claim they really, really care about. As the CDC claims, “These students are far less likely to have access to private instruction and care and far more likely to rely on key school-supported resources like food programs, special education services, counseling, and after-school programs to meet basic developmental needs.” Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics, having weighed the pros and cons, maintains that schools should reopen for in-person learning for children’s overall well-being. And a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine echoes similar sentiments.
Also, with online learning, teachers are not spending as much time teaching. For example, in California, the state is keeping the same number of instructional days in the school year, but “the number of instructional minutes per day was cut for every grade level: 20 minutes shorter for kindergarten, 50 minutes shorter for grades 1 to 3, and one to two hours shorter for upper grades,” according to teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci.
While children are being robbed of an education, taxpayers are also being ripped off. Teachers are being paid in full but working fewer hours, and often less effectively than if they were in a traditional classroom.
What can be done?
A recent poll conducted by my non-profit, the California Teachers Empowerment Network, found that 56 percent of teachers said that schools should open full time in the fall, while another 21 percent said that they would prefer the hybrid model – part in-person and part online. Teachers need to step up and demand that their unions listen to them, and stop being the tail wagged by the dog.
If teachers – at least those who are young and able-bodied – don’t want to teach in person, we need to cut their salaries accordingly. It’s only fair to taxpayers. If a cashier at my local supermarket decides to not come to work, she would not get paid. Or if an Uber driver decides to work just a few hours a week, he is paid accordingly. We need to stop treating unionized teachers as a protected class.
And the Lifetime Achievement Edu-Razzie for “Chutzpah and All-Around Bad Acting” goes to…the teachers unions collectively!
This article originally appeared in the California Policy Center.