Public schools

Teachers Unions Extracting Final Payouts Before Schools Reopen

L.A. teachers win $500 childcare concession, though New York union still holding firm on anti-scientific 2-case rule.

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On Sunday, as FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver pointed out, the United States saw its lowest number of reported COVID-19 deaths—222—since March 23, 2020. On Monday, the city of Los Angeles, whose public schools have not been open for 13 months, announced that it was caving to the local teachers union demand for an extra $500-per-child monthly stipend for all district employees with offspring under six years old.

"We have done all we can to take care of our employees, from Hero Pay and extended medical benefits to Covid tests and vaccinations," L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement that reads like a hostage note. "The support for childcare is another step we're taking to help our employees so they can keep doing all they can to serve the needs of students and their families."

Contra Beutner, neither the district nor its teachers have been "doing all they can to serve the needs of students and their families," because L.A.'s schools have remained stubbornly closed, even as most of the rest of the country reopens in the face of 10 months' worth of evidence that school-type settings are disproportionately unlikely to be incubators of the novel coronavirus. Making matters more infuriating to public school parents is the fact that Southern California has one of the most temperate and dry climates in the country, meaning it is easier there than almost anywhere else to open windows and throw up outdoor tents year-round.

As has been true throughout the pandemic, public school closures have had little to do with the amount of community infection, and much to do with teachers union potency and local political tilt toward the Democratic Party. As the left-leaning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof put it in February, "The blunt fact is that it is Democrats—including those who run the West Coast, from California through Oregon to Washington State—who have presided over one of the worst blows to the education of disadvantaged Americans in history. The result: more dropouts, less literacy and numeracy, widening race gaps, and long-term harm to some of our most marginalized youth."

But one key reason why unions keep pressing for every last-minute advantage—even after getting vaccine priority, testing capability, and the largest federal money transfer to locally managed schools in U.S. history, is that they can. At least in polities controlled by the Democratic Party, which receives around $19 of every $20 in teachers union political donations.

Take New York. On March 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its guidelines about social-distancing within schools from six feet to three feet, thus belatedly bringing U.S. recommendations in line with that of the scientific community and rest of the world. Yet when asked this Monday about when the Empire State would finally revise its guidelines in response, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a remarkable admission.

"It's not as simple as you suggest," Cuomo told reporters. "Some superintendents like it; many superintendents don't like it. Some parents like it; many parents don't like it. Some teachers like it; many teachers don't like it. The reason it is taking time is because it is very controversial."

This, from the governor who has uttered the phrase "follow the science" on television more than anyone this side of Bill Nye, is a useful reminder that he, like far too many other elected officials and even appointed scientific bureaucrats, in fact does not, instead letting "stakeholders" (i.e., entities that hold political power) bend science to fit their self-interest.

New York City, which has wrongly been held up as a national model for school reopening by both Mayor Bill de Blasio and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, remains one of the most closed (i.e., "hybrid") districts of all those that are not 100 percent remote. That's due both to the still-extant six-foot rule, which effectively cuts class sizes in half, and also the astonishingly anti-scientific "two-case rule" mandating an automatic 10-day closure whenever a school of any size reports two concurrent positive tests among the entire pool of students, teachers, and staff.

On Monday, a full two months after first saying that he would review the uncertainty-generating closure-trigger, De Blasio announced that he is finally going to change the two-case rule…"in the coming days." With details to be named later, after negotiations with the powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Which promptly shot de Blasio's announcement out of the water.

"A proclamation is not a plan. The city can't change the two-case rule without Albany's approval," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. (That claim, typical of New York's astoundingly dysfunctional political structure, was quickly denied by state authorities.) Mulgrew continued: "We have been talking to our medical experts, and will continue to discuss these issues with the city."

To which reopening activists responded with what has been a common refrain, if not quite among journalists who cover the issue: Which experts, precisely?

"We have several dozen doctors on the record who say the two-case rule should be abandoned," activist Daniela Jampel told the New York Post. "The UFT keeps saying their independent experts tell them they should keep it. They don't name them. Why? I think they need to. Otherwise our kids' education is being held hostage."

The two-case rule, the six-foot rule, the ongoing remote-teaching opt-out even for healthy young teachers who've had plenty of time to be vaccinated—these are all the product of teachers union muscle. And they have contributed to America having less in-person instruction over the past year than almost any other industrialized country, causing massive learning loss (particularly among poor and minority students), emotional isolation, and labor force dropouts by women.

All of which add to the brazenness of union leaders refusing to say whether they'll support full reopening even by the next school year in September, by which time most everybody in the United States over the age of 12 will be vaccinated.

"I've seen inequalities all my life, and the last thing we can afford to do at the end of a pandemic that has already disproportionately impacted our Black and Brown and Indigenous communities, the last thing we need to do is to say we did not take the time to do studies in their environments, in their schools," National Education Association President Becky Pringle told The Washington Post last week. "We still have lots of questions."

Parents have lots of questions too, like How much is real estate in Florida?, and Why are we paying so much tax money for schools we can't use?

AFT President Randi Weingarten continues trying to portray herself as the voice of science and reason, definitely in favor of reopening just worried about a mitigation or two. But the mask is starting to slip, and journalists are starting to tally the receipts. Pressed last week by New Yorker interrogator Isaac Chotiner on her hostility toward the three-foot rule, Weingarten was even more unconvincing than usual.

"I think that, if you look at what the A.F.T. has done, we've tried to call balls and strikes this whole time," she said. "But the issue, in terms of three feet versus six feet, is we thought that, for the places that were tough to reopen, and places that had just reopened, that you couldn't be so certain that six feet was absolutely key in February, and then so certain in March that it wasn't key."

Uh-huh. At least Weingarten didn't try to portray union-criticism as an artifact of privilege, as she did in an interview last month with The Jerusalem Post:

I think some people are very skeptical of the power that they perceive teachers unions to have. They look at, for example, the ongoing struggles in Los Angeles, where they see this big dollar figure of aid being given for school reopening and are baffled by the perceived resistance of teachers to going back to work.

I have a very pointed response here for Jews making this argument.

American Jews are now part of the ownership class. Jews were immigrants from somewhere else. And they needed the right to have public education. And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done. Both economic opportunity through the labor movement and an educational opportunity through public education were key for Jews to go from the working class to the ownership class.

What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it. Am I saying that everything we do is right? No. Are people in Los Angeles fearful? Yes.

One in three people have had COVID in L.A. The disease has significantly hurt Black and brown communities, many of whom are in the leadership of UTLA. You have to meet fear with facts, just like you have to do about vaccine hesitancy. And that's what's happening right now, just like it's happening all across the country. […]

I wish we had 1/100th of the power the right wing attributes to us. We'd do a heck of a lot better job in actually educating our kids and focusing on excellence and equity.

I hear that. So you see it as a privileged argument?

Oh my God, it's a totally privileged argument. And I'm not saying that everything we do is right. It isn't. But not everything bankers do is right. And not everything lawyers do is right. It's just a matter of workers having to have some degree of power and some degree of voice.

Teachers are up against 40 years of the Chamber of Commerce and many other groups actually fighting to erode workers' rights. Teachers are one of the few groups that are still organized.

When—not if—teachers unions come down from the zenith of power they have flexed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the single biggest culprit will not be the right wing, or the Chamber of Commerce, or even disgruntled libertarian journalists. It will be the teachers unions themselves.

NEXT: The Misleading Push for Corporate Tax Hikes

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  1. Can we finally admit that not only are public school teachers not essential, they also don’t qualify as human?

    1. HEROS!

      1. They’re called hoagies in Philly.

        1. lol my mom & the 6th grade lunch calendar “what the hell is a *hoa-gie*?”

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          2. “what the hell is a *hoa-gie*?”

            It’s a sub-mariner sand-witch.

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      2. Letter Man arrives to save the day!

        H->Z

        ZEROS!

      3. @Don’t look at me!

        If you consider champions of tyranny “heroes,” sure…

    2. Can we also admit that public schools have been counterproductive to educating poor and middle class children?

      1. some would say the plan worked to a T

    3. Correction Rev.
      Union Progressive Democrat public teachers. We don’t have that kind where most of us live. These overpaid clowns are the only ones in the press. The rest of the country’s teachers have been too busy teaching in the classroom since last August to picket, whine, and demand more money.

      1. If only that were true. By using their big-city union muscle, Marxokkkrats have pushed their anti-reason agenda nationwide.

        It is time that we compel government to insist that government funds be used to instill an agenda promoting individual rights only, and teach what an actual “right” is (hint: it isn’t something that you use to compel other people to your own irrational viewpoint, and it isn’t something that allows businesses, which are NOT “people,” to push a political viewpoint on the masses through censorship and fake “fact checking”).

    4. Democrats don’t want poor kids educated, they want them indoctrinated.

      -jcr

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  2. Follow the political science

  3. Democrats … have presided over one of the worst blows to the education of disadvantaged Americans in history. The result: more dropouts, less literacy and numeracy, widening race gaps, and long-term harm to some of our most marginalized youth.

    “BWAHAHAHAHAAA!!”

    1. more dropouts, less literacy and numeracy, widening race gaps, and long-term harm to some of our most marginalized youth.

      Repeat those words out loud in a room with a Proggy and they will automatically respond: “This is the way.”

  4. Randi Weingarten getting on her private jet is a nice touch.

    1. What, you don’t have one? You should look into the lucrative career of union grifting.

  5. Fire them all and hire scabs. Scab schools for all!

    1. That’s what I suggested when the CPS teachers refused to go back to work after the Christmas holidays. UPS and Amazon are always hiring.

    2. At this point they should hang the leaders in the public square until the rest figure out how to get with the program.

      Public sector unions are all thieves and their leaders are the biggest grifters of all.

  6. All this with nearly a year’s worth of data showing CLEARLY that schools aren’t a major driver of transmission.

    Line ’em up and shoot ’em.

    1. Take ’em all, c’mon boys take ’em all!

  7. How many people in the US have any notion of these shenanigans?

    Far far too few. The AFT is simply exploiting a crisis to the fullest extent.

    1. I know about it, and still don’t give a shit. Fuck Californians, they voted for this shit.

      1. yup! we have let the unions buttfuck us for decades and now we have bottom ranked piss-poor schools that spend tens of thousands of dollars a year PER student and teachers that are lazy cunts. if you are a teacher reading this…FUCK YOU you lazy incompetent selfish assholes! calif schools used to be top 5 and now rank bottom 5

  8. citing Nate Silver is a lol.

  9. >>But the issue, in terms of three feet versus six feet

    is both sides are fucking retarded.

  10. What are polities?

  11. anyone who continues to send their children to state schools is asking for indoctrination and further destruction. The only solution is to stop surrendering and break free! Leave if you haven’t already and take the per pupil funding away, and find better alternatives for your family.

  12. i have family members that are teachers including my daughter.. most teachers are honest hard-working humans who want what’s best for their students…The unions on the other hand are complete waste of time and a joke. public sector units are always a joke because they have no one to negotiate it went against. they have done more to damage education than anyone could have ever imagined possible. there may not be any public education in 20 years because people are going to start realizing that it’s been a waste of time and the unions absolutely by far the main reason for that. they don’t care about the kids they don’t care about taxpayers and they don’t really care about most teachers just the minority of loudmouth older teachers who complain and wihne and don’t want to do anything. is counterproductive disgusting and almost makes this peaceful man want to be violent.

  13. We are Hero! We Deserve!

  14. Do not send your children to Public Indoctrination Camps unless you want them to eventually turn you into Big Brother for re-education.

  15. I’d like more exploration of motive. Why are unions doing this? Teachers I know hate remote learning and want to be back in the classroom.

    1. Unions are “doing this” at the behest of its members who would have no voice and no power as individuals.

    2. More money and power. You know. The usual.

  16. $500 a month? Shit. Nothing like an instant $6,000 a year raise.

    Keep an eye on this. Somehow, they’ll decided that it’s not “equitable” to exclude teachers who don’t have kids. They’ll give it all teachers so that they can pay for doggie day care. If they don’t have a dog, then maybe a hamster or goldfish or houseplant will be enough.

    Damn. I was a public school teacher 35 years ago. Maybe I shouldn’t have quit.

  17. Outlaw public sector unions.

    That is all.

  18. “ America having less in-person instruction over the past year than almost any other industrialized country, causing massive learning loss ”

    Considering the BS they teach, this is a good result.

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  22. Our schools teach White students that they are immoral and contemptible if they don’t support the White Genocide that’s being carried out by unlimited third-world immigration and FORCED assimilation i.e diversity in EVERY White country and ONLY White countries.

    Their teachers never tell them, “White self-hatred is SICK!!!“

    Those teachers claim to be anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

    1. So, I take it you’re against the teaching of the history of slavery in this country since it might hurt white students’ feelings.

  23. The minimum wage grocery workers at your neighborhood grocery never walked out and are face to face with hundreds everyday.

    They are bigger HEROS than these Progressive/Socialist so called teachers.

    BTW….don’t get to happy LA, there will be another hoop for the taxpayer to jump through….maybe limo service to and from the two-day-a-week job they’ll agree to.

  24. Set a date for school opening. Open the schools. If a teacher does not show up – the state should consider it their resignation – no unemployment benefits. If more than 25% don’t show up, cancel every concession they have received in the last two years. Pass a law in Albany decertifying the Union if they persist in obstructing the function of the government. It is ridiculous to keep coddling these selfish, narcissistic losers.

    1. So when did it libertarians decide that individuals don’t have the right to form groups for mutual goals? Isn’t there at least one political party with the word “libertarian” in its name?

      1. as a lifer libertarian i agree that they are perfectly welcome to form any union or guild they desire. that group can make the rules of membership. it’s their club. i also say that they are welcome to agree or disagree with employment rules set by an employer. disagree? quit. it’s everyone right to choose. the employer offers employment at some some set rate of compensation and requires work hours and other rules of that employment engagement. as free actors the teachers are welcome to accept or decline. that we have administrators in bed wit the union is actionable as the management has not furthered the goal of the organization…educating kids at a rate which is reasonable and sustainable. like all organizations the budget is a concern.

      2. They didn’t.

    2. I don’t mind that teachers union keep teachers home for safety. What I *do* mind is that the layabouts are still being paid, and they’re sucking down vaccinations for hazards they won’t face.

      Teachers should stay home. But they should also be laid off and given lowest priority for vaccination because they’re safe at home.

  25. It’s just like a right wing rag like “Reason” to attack treachers in LA for being worried about opening up too soon at the same time it falsely ridicules blue states like CA for having surges all the while pretending that it’s been a safe harbor for covid-19 denial all along.

  26. administrators rolled again! teachers are overpaid and lazy. if their output was good we’d be less pissed but the dopes they churn out cannot do simple math, spell or craft a proper sentence.

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