The head of United Teachers Los Angeles—the city's teachers union—thinks that pandemic-related learning losses are a myth and that the thousands of students who slogged through virtual school last year are doing just fine.
"There's no such thing as learning loss," Cecily Myart-Cruz told Los Angeles magazine in a recent interview.
Myart-Cruz did acknowledge that students' achievements in mathematics, for instance, might have been harmed by virtual learning, but she asserted that the experience of surviving 2020–2021 somehow makes up for this.
"Our kids didn't lose anything," she said. "It's OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup."
Throughout the interview, Myart-Cruz acts as though she is trying to confirm the worst fears of conservative parents who worry that public educators are trying to turn their children into progressive activists. The union boss brazenly discusses her plans to politicize everything having to do with the classroom experience—and to fight school reopenings unless accompanied by changes that she claims will address systemic racism. Last year, she opposed making teachers teach virtually for more than four hours each day, but also turned down a deal to let schools reopen in exchange for $2 billion in extra funding. And she dares anyone to try to oppose her.
"You can recall the governor," she said. "You can recall the school board. But how are you going to recall me?"
Los Angeles magazine has more:
Last winter, for example, as protests mounted against Myart-Cruz's handling of remote teaching, the union leader saw it as a racial attack, not an educational dispute. She posted an article to Facebook in which a school superintendent in Chicago charged that parents pushing to get kids back in the classroom were fueled by "white-supremacist thinking." "Right on!" Myart-Cruz wrote approvingly, going on to claim that she and other UTLA staffers were being "stalked by wealthy, white, Middle Eastern parents." (One parent group saw anti-Semitism in the wording of her comments. "Based on the demographics of Los Angeles and your personal exposure to the West Los Angeles community due to your tenure at Emerson Middle School, many have perceived this statement as a thinly veiled reference to Jews, specifically Persian Jews," reads a letter sent to Myart-Cruz from the group California Students United.)
Myart-Cruz allegedly ordered a study to determine the ethnic backgrounds of her more vocal critics, presumably so that she could prove her point. One parent, Maryam Qudrat, who had been loudly pushing in the press for more Zoom time for kids, claims she received an odd email from a researcher at UTLA asking pointed questions about her racial background. "I thought it was some kind of scam," says Qudrat, whose parents immigrated here from Afghanistan. "But I reread it and realized it was real. I felt almost violated, like they were bullying me. It was clear to me that Cecily Myart-Cruz made this whole thing into some sort of racial war." UTLA doesn't deny conducting the study but later claimed in a statement, "This outreach by the researcher was not authorized."…
"UTLA is not a normal union," agrees a former district official who asked not to be identified because he's "scared" of UTLA. "They just march to their own freaking drummer."
It is brutally unfair that thousands of parents have no alternative but to entrust their kids' education to a system in which people like Myart-Cruz hold the power. Union officials who want to keep employees at home for as long as possible—and don't care how little math is being taught to students—do not have the kids' best interests in mind. They are demanding tremendous sacrifices from everyone else, and they have no reason to compromise because there's zero accountability.
This is why all families deserve school choice: If education officials simply refuse to give students what they need, students should have every right to go elsewhere—and take their share of the system's education funds with them. No educator who shrugs at the idea of kids falling behind in reading and math is entitled to tax dollars.