Public schools

D.C. Schools Suddenly Abandon Plans To Reopen After Teachers Union Objects

"This timeline will need to be adjusted."


D.C. public schools were scheduled to reopen next week, but Lucy has yanked the football away again: The district announced today that distance learning will continue for most students.

"While we planned to offer in-person learning at the start of Term 2 for select elementary school students, this timeline will need to be adjusted," wrote Lewis Ferebee, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, in an email to parents.

This reversal came after the Washington Teachers Union voted to oppose the reopening plan. The union also instructed teachers to take a "mental health day" on Monday and refuse to teach virtually, as a show of force.

Much like the union's earlier efforts to thwart the city's reopening plans—which involved dumping fake body bags in front of district headquarters and staging drive-by protests—the tactics have succeeded: Officials caved to union demands without any fight whatsoever. As a result, parents who had made arrangements to send their kids back to school just a few days from now will be thrown for yet another loop.

This same dynamic—district announces a reopening date, teachers protest, district relents, working parents suffer—is playing out in large districts across the country: Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and others. The Fairfax Education Association, which represents public school teachers in northern Virginia, doesn't want its members returning for in-person instruction until at least the fall of 2021.

Teachers unions claim that their goal in thwarting reopenings is to keep students and teachers safe. But we know from schools that have reopened that doing so is relatively safe; meanwhile, virtual education is a completely disaster for many kids. Unfortunately, the teachers unions' incentives are totally at odds with what families need. Students need in-person instruction, whereas public school teachers will be paid regardless of whether they actually have to show up to work.

Imagine if public education dollars followed individual students instead of automatically lining the pockets of institutions that aren't serving students particularly well.