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A Tumultuous School Year Winds Down

As the school year nears completion, a quick look at recent developments shows an education system in turmoil. The unions are more political than ever, their demands are shameless, lawsuits against the establishment abound, and school choice is rapidly expanding.

Politicking

Americans for Fair Treatment, a national organization that supports public employees, reveals a startling fact: the NEA currently spends $10 million more on politics and lobbying than it does on representing its members. Similarly, the American Federation of Teachers saw a significant increase in its political spending, with $46.9 million allocated in 2023, a $11.2 million surge from the previous reporting period. These figures underscore the financial weight of the unions’ political activities.

Teachers’ unions, traditionally active in domestic politics, have now expanded their sphere of influence to foreign policy. This shift was exemplified by Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, who made a public statement on X several months ago calling for a permanent truce in the Middle East—a stance endorsed by the organization’s board of directors. This shift in the union’s activities marks a new era in their political engagement.

The Massachusetts NEA affiliate also approved a motion about the Middle East conflagration. “The MTA President and Vice President will urge the president of the NEA to pressure President Biden to stop funding and sending weapons in support of the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the Palestinian people in Gaza,” the motion read.

Union demands and strikes

Despite serious competition, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has emerged as the craziest teachers’ union in the country. On May 15, hundreds of teachers ditched school to lobby lawmakers in Springfield for an extra $1.1 billion they claim the state owes the city. At the union’s request, the Chicago school district rolled over and granted the field trip as a paid day off. All this was just a warm-up for June, when negotiations for a new contract get underway.

CTU’s boatload of demands includes 9% annual raises for all teachers, $2,500 retirement bonuses, fully paid abortions for all members, housing subsidies for CTU staff and Chicago Public School families, total teacher autonomy over the curriculum, weight-loss drug coverage for all members, ad nauseam. CTU president Stacy Davis Gates proclaims the new contract would cost taxpayers $50 billion.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is facing an anticipated fiscal cliff as enrollment continues to plummet and the over $4 billion received by the district in federal COVID-era Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) aid winds down.

LAUSD was home to 737,000 students twenty years ago, but that number has now dwindled to 430,000. Student enrollment dropped by more than 70,000 students between the 2017-18 and 2021-22 school years, but the school district blithely added over 10,000 new employees during that five-year period.

But now, with the expiration of state and federal pandemic aid necessitating cutbacks, the unionistas are in a snit. The United Teachers Los Angeles and SEIU Local 99, the local union representing district support staff, rallied outside a school board meeting to protest the district’s budget.

UTLA’s current contract includes a 21% salary increase, and SEIU Local 99 negotiated a 30% wage increase last year, but union members still want more. Los Angeles Times education writer Howard Blume reports that angry union leaders lashed out against Supt. Alberto Carvalho at last week’s school board meeting, demanding that he fulfill a “pledge to protect jobs and employee benefits.”

Also in the Golden State, UAW 2865, the union representing 36,000 teaching assistants, graduate student researchers, and other academic workers at the University of California’s 10 campuses, has just voted to authorize a strike and “maximize chaos.” The union alleges that its workers’ rights have been violated at several universities by actions against pro-Palestinian protests. The walkouts, which are still in the planning stage, were approved by 79% of the 19,780 members who voted.

Lawsuits

Parents of Chicago school students are suing CTU for damages. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Patrick Hughes and Daniel Suhr from Hughes and Suhr LLC, stems from the strike that took place in January 2022. The attorneys say the strikes forced Chicago parents “to face unexpected childcare costs, take unpaid leave from work, and cope with additional financial strains.”

Using the same lawyers who are suing CTU, a group of families has filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Education Association and its local affiliate, the Portland Association of Teachers, for damages of over $100 million following a nearly month-long strike in November. “This lawsuit seeks compensation for the families who suffered financial and emotional distress because of this illegal strike,” the attorneys assert. 

Along with Kansas, Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, and Young America’s Foundation, the parent advocate group Moms for Liberty is filing a lawsuit to combat Biden’s new Title IX regulations, which would gut parental rights in K-12 education.

Moms for Liberty explains “that these overly broad regulations will also chill a student’s ability to say they are uncomfortable with someone of the opposite birth sex in their bathroom, and that a parent could be prevented from being the one to teach their own child about gender identity as it aligns with their personal beliefs.” 

In April, the California Charter Schools Association filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District over its controversial new policy barring charter schools from using classrooms in certain district school buildings. The new rule prevents charters from colocating with low-performing schools, community schools that provide social services, and schools in the district’s Black Student Achievement Plan. It also prevents charter schools from being situated in places where they could siphon students away from district-run schools.

The teacher union-influenced schoolboard decision is especially galling, considering that the mass exodus from L.A. schools has left many school buildings with plenty of room to spare.

Jewish students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are taking action against their union representatives for allegations of anti-Semitism. Graduate students recently filed discrimination charges against the school’s Graduate Student Union (GSU) and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), alleging that Jewish students are unlawfully being required to pay their dues for anti-Semitic causes.

On May 13, California’s Jurupa Unified School District approved a $360,000 settlement agreement for Jessica Tapia, a Christian teacher who sued the district after being fired in January 2023. She was sacked because her religious beliefs made her unable to comply with the district’s directives “to refrain from disclosing the gender identity of a student who is transgender to a parent who does not know the student’s gender identity” and “to address students by their preferred name and preferred gender pronouns.”

Tapia asked district personnel if they were asking her to lie to parents. They responded, “Yes, it’s the law.”

But in reality, according to state law, “Parents of currently enrolled or former pupils have an absolute right to access to any and all pupil records related to their children that are maintained by school districts or private schools.”

School choice

Ten states have passed universal education choice initiatives in the last two years. Louisiana, pending Gov. Jeff Landry’s signature, will be number 11.

In states that don’t have a private choice program, the best option for parents is to teach their kids themselves. There were about 3.1 million homeschooled students in 2021-2022 in grades K-12 in the U.S. (roughly 6% of school-age children), compared to 2.5 million in spring 2019.

This school year has been a turbulent one, and it’s not quite over yet. And who knows what the fall will bring.

*   *   *

Larry Sand, a retired 28-year classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Photo: Empty classroom with chairs on the table during COVID-19 pandemic

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for task task says:

    This little article, is an anthropological insight like no other which I have recently read. It did not intend to be but it is. I engage lots of people and in doing so I’m in awe at the generational differences which proves that the basis for why our nation appears ‘woke and stupid’ is because we off loaded education to institutions that were purposely dishonest and used the opportunity to give us what we are got and continue to get. There are both morphological and psychological gender differences. Nature is a far better planner than a tech economy where two parents work. Children are not born precocious. They require years of socialization and not only does that require a two parent home, to insure a predictable outcome, but also a home which interacts with the educators and does not assume they are doing the job expected of them. Nature, based on gender prescribed different roles, which the planners almost always ignore, is why a degree in biology and chemistry often provides a lot more political insight than a degree in politics does. The powerful Department of Ed should never have been created. It could have made life easier but it has done the very opposite. Or, possibly a work around, to mitigate its deliberate failure, is that, instead of two parents working, at least one, or even both, should do what Nature intended…concentrate on creating productive patriotic future generations which share morals, values and principles.

    Consider what is germaine. Once a gap is put into the stream then future generations will be lost as proper educators. It is why Lenin said “give me one generation and I can change the world”. He did not have to say that for us to realize it. It’s that obvious. Nevertheless, we gave the planners an opportunity to use a whole Department (Education), circa 1979, with plenary power and the product they produced suffers from a severe deficiency of traditional morals, values and defined principles. And yet we blame them (educators and offspring) when in reality, while we looked the other way, and permitted others to do the one job Nature counted on us to do right, so much was done we now critique. The Baby Boomers, along with many subsequent generations (products of the gap), created what they now disparage.

    In short, I did not have to write the above paragraphs to say what the article is saying. The article actually said that although we all speak the same language, English, we can’t communicate. So I wrote those two paragraphs to explain how? You can figure out the why. Just realize it was not an accident.

  2. A cursory internet search reveals that 66 percent of students cannot read at a proficient level.

    UCLA medical school was in the news yesterday where it was revealed that fully half the students could not pass basic tests of medical competence. The medical school operates on the pass/fail system (no letter grades) so it cannot be determined how well the students that are passing are doing nor can one tell how badly the failing students are failing.

    The demise of UCLA’s medical school can be traced to the hiring of Dean of Admissions, Jennifer Lucero, who was hired in 2020 for the position. Lucero believes that DEI trumps academic readiness.
    For more on this, a link will be posted below.

    I’m a retired teacher and principal from Texas where, thank God, teacher’s unions are outlawed. But we do have a quasi union, the Texas State Teacher’s Association, who’s lobbying activities have made it nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. It can be done, but the process can take up to three years if the teacher makes it past the first probationary year.

    Larry Sand, quite rightly, focused his article on teacher unions and their pernicious effects on US education, but anyone who has kept up with the subject can point out this has been a known issue for decades. Leadership in teacher’s unions consists almost entirely of Affluent White Female Liberals, AWFLs, an acronym coined by Michael Malice. Using position, money, and power, these AWFLs have browbeaten state legislatures into passing laws that give teacher’s unions even more power over school administrators to the extent that even if school officials attempted to establish rigorous standards to improve student performance, those efforts are doomed to fail.

    One lie that is often told is that we cannot attract good teachers because teacher pay is so low. Nonsense. In Texas, a first year teacher, newly minted form college, can expect a salary minimum of $45,000. Nationally, the average teacher pay in the 2020-21 school year was $66,400. While one does not become a millionaire on such a salary, one isn’t likely to be hitting the food banks either.

    As Mr. Sand mentioned the teacher’s union in Chicago, it is worth mentioning that average teacher pay in Chicago is now $93,182 (according to Illinois Policy (dot) org)-----which is up over $43,000 since 2012. Obviously, throwing more money at the problem is not only NOT the solution, it IS the problem.
    Cronies hire cronies who’s incompetence is fully shielded by the union. What a racket.

    The obvious answer is to cut off all teacher unions at the knees. But that won’t work because it’s been tried before and fails every time. They have become too powerful. So, the not so obvious answer, is either home schooling or charter schools----which that trend, thank God, is growing in numbers.

    Until public school systems have to compete with alternative schools for state and local money, there are no incentives for them to improve.

    Edited—I forgot to link the article about the UCLA Medical School

  3. Avatar for task task says:

    I saw the article. But even before this article was written I have had much experience conversing with doctors, and especially with boarded surgeons, who have made it clear that they are dumfounded over the woke environment they are forced to endure. They know that no matter how bad students are they cannot be failed and expelled. We are soon going to be faced with a deluge of incompetence and the woke AMA members are also infiltrated with those who are just as ideological or else are afraid of the retributions associated with speaking out.

    At a reunion with my classmates I was the one selected to sit with the current dean. He is an Australian grad who came to America because he treasured American ideals. Not any more. He is working on reestablishing originalism, albeit with caution, lest he also become a victim of the “Brain Snatchers”. Australia is no better.

  4. It is truly frightening that the movie Idiocracy turned out to be a documentary.

  5. Avatar for task task says:

    In NYC, where my partner’s wife taught typing, her pension, last time I checked was about $110,000 per annum. She complains that she and her husband (my prior partner) are now forced to use Medicare although they are still provided with gap coverage via her contract. The cost of running the NYC school system is greater than the cost of the entire budgets of 44 states. And the chief cost of running NYC is paying government job retirement benefits. That comes, not from investment but, from current taxes. Can you imagine any private business whose retirement costs were greater than their current payroll?

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