The debate over schools reopening has affected how Americans view teachers’ unions. It has been well-publicized that the unions in many districts have submitted political demands that have little to do with pandemic safety as a condition of returning to the classroom.
None of the political demands have anything to do with educating children, either. One of the requirements, defunding the police, has actually been getting children killed in cities like New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta. Perhaps the most annoying displays were members of the teachers’ unions protesting school openings in large groups while maintaining that returning to the classroom is too dangerous.
Of course, these protests were done side by side with groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and the Center for Popular Democracy. Hyperbole was on full display, especially considering that over 20 other industrialized countries have opened schools with no significant COVID-19 outbreaks. The coffins were a nice touch, especially for a virus that has a 99.8% recovery rate and where fatalities are most common above the age of 70. Nationally the average age of school teachers is about 40.
All of this insanity is affecting how Americans view teachers’ unions. According to a new poll from Rasmussen, only 39% of Americans think it is a good idea that most teachers belong to public unions. That number is down from 45% a year ago. More than a third of respondents say it is a bad thing that so many teachers are in a union. The remainder either believe it has no impact or they aren’t sure.
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FDR warned about the fundamental flaw of public unions. They essentially negotiate against the taxpayers who pay their salaries. In this case, they are negotiating a service that is part of the social contract. It is no different than if police unions had made unreasonable demands to continue to serve the public when the pandemic hit our shores. That would have been unacceptable.
The political leverage done by the teachers’ unions is just as despicable. Especially when the mental health costs of continued isolation and lockdown on our children are becoming more evident. Unheard of numbers of those between 18 and 24 have reported contemplating suicide in recent months. Even CDC Director Robert Redfield said we’re seeing more suicides and drug overdoses in those under 45 than deaths from COVID-19.
The threat FDR did not see was how politicized public unions would become. The teachers’ unions are no exception. They engage in the political process through donations and lobbying to get their preferred policies in place. The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association overwhelmingly donate to and support Democrats.
Both unions have donated to Joe Biden this cycle and are getting some bang for their buck. Biden has explicitly said he does not support federal funding for charter schools and will ban for-profit ones altogether. The platform also calls for bringing remaining charters under the same onerous and unsuccessful regulations as the public schools. These include reinstating Title IX protections for transgender students and the awful restorative justice policies of the Obama administration.
The pandemic may have disrupted their plans to shove all children into a state-run education monopoly. Record numbers of families are looking to homeschool as they’ve become familiar with the curriculum and frustrated with continued closings. Some experts are projecting that homeschooling will go from 3-4% of school-age children to 13-14%. Nebraska alone has seen a 21% increase in applications, while Vermont has seen a 75% surge.
Perhaps things will not go exactly as planned with the teachers’ union throwing in with the radical left. If projections are correct, they will be losing more children to homeschooling and small-group programs run by parents. In a way, they have proved themselves to be something less than essential by playing political games. Their decrease in approval is only the beginning. An increasing number of parents taking control of their children’s education might be the best thing to happen to K-12 ever. And one of the few bright spots in the pandemic.