As has been well documented, pandemic-related school reopenings are based mostly on politics and union strength. In union-lite, politically-sensible Florida, the state resumed in-person instruction in August, and COVID case rates remained lower than those in the general community. According to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, 80 percent of Florida students are attending school in person, either part- or full-time.
Then there is California, run by far-Left legislators and powerful teachers unions. And no place epitomizes the Beholden State as much as Los Angeles, where the teachers union has recently decided to let the schools reopen…sort of. Under the deal, agreed to by the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District, teachers will not have to return to work until they have had access to COVID-19 vaccinations and have achieved maximum immunity, which could take up to six weeks. That means elementary schools could reopen the week of April 12th, but middle and high schoolers might not return till late April or even May. It’s worth noting that the school year in Los Angeles ends June 11th.
What will the reopening look like? Elementary students will attend school just half the time. The agreement calls for specific groups of students to have in-person instruction time either in the morning or the afternoon. But for middle and high school students, it is much worse. They get to return to the classroom two or three days a week on a staggered schedule. But, instead of going from class to class as usual, they will spend the entire day in one classroom with an advisory teacher, whose job is essentially that of a baby sitter. The students will have their subject teachers instructing them on line, and they will be forced to wear noise-cancelling headphones to block out the rest of the world.
The only thing approaching real school will take place for one period a day. As Los Angeles Times education writer Howard Blume explains, during that time “the headsets would come off, and the teacher and students would work together on assignments and activities that are not part of the core academic work. These activities would include a focus on students’ social and emotional well-being.”
It is hardly a surprise that many parents are outraged, especially those of middle and high schoolers. Right after the details of the district-union agreement were announced, parents rallied at two locations in Los Angeles, expressing their unhappiness over the deal. They are demanding more in-person learning and a seat at the table when decisions are made.
But the union is not really interested in what parents have to say. Despite the fact that many of the upset parents are black and Hispanic, UTLA boss Cecily Myart-Cruz insists “We have to call out the privilege behind the largely white, wealthy parents driving the push for a rushed return. Their experience of this pandemic is not our students’ families’ experiences.” At a rally in south Los Angeles an Hispanic mother cogently noted, “It’s not just a race (issue). It’s about the children and the generation. They’re all getting dumber.”
One mother in particular has an ax to grind with Myart-Cruz, who posted on Facebook that “wealthy white and Middle Eastern parents” were stalking union members on social media. But in fact, it seems that it is the union doing the stalking. Maryam Qudrat, an Afghan-American college lecturer and parent who has spoken out against the school closures, writes that she was contacted by a UTLA researcher who “claimed he was doing a research project on parents and others who have spoken out on LAUSD issues with a specific goal: to identify them by race and class. In his email to me, the researcher explained that my last name, Qudrat, is ‘not in our index’ and if ‘I could tell him how I racially self-identify.”’ While UTLA didn’t comment on Qudrat’s allegations, this kind of class warfare is very consistent with the union’s Cultural Marxism modus operandi.
It’s worth noting that Qudrat’s background exposed her to what education deprivation looks like. “The Taliban would say, ‘Well, we’re just closing the schools right now because of a security crisis, because of public crisis,’ and now you have the UTLA hell-bent on keeping our schools closed.”
Back in the real world, due to pandemic-related restrictions, child suicide is becoming an “international epidemic,” according to Dr. David Greenhorn, a medical emergency specialist in England. Dr. Richard Delorme, who heads the psychiatric department at one of the largest children’s hospitals in France, hospital went from seeing roughly 20 suicide attempts per month involving patients 15 or younger, “to more than double that—and, disturbingly, more determination than ever before in the attempts.” In the United States, parents have been alerted to an increased risk of suicide, especially among vulnerable teens.
The good news is that the CDC has just changed their school guidance so students (with masks) need not be six feet from each other, determining that three feet is safe. This should enable all schools to open up for in-person learning for all kids. But don’t look for Myart-Cruz and UTLA—the tail that wags the LAUSD dog—to buy it. They have an agenda, and facts that don’t mesh with it are simply ignored.