“Never let a crisis go to waste.” We heard these immortal words from former White House chief of staff for President Obama, Rahm Emmanuel. It seems the teachers unions were paying attention. They don’t want to waste the opportunity to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a cudgel to force politicians to deliver their wildest dreams in the name of “safety” for school children.
Concerns for the welfare of children have never been on the minds of teachers unions before. Despite the overwhelming evidence that charter schools, especially in poor, urban neighborhoods like New York City, outperform their public school counterparts, the teachers unions are trying to eliminate charter schools. Their concern is only for teachers who pay union dues.
Now they are seizing on the Covid-19 pandemic to insist their demands be met lest the safety of children be compromised. This hypocrisy would be laughable except for the high price to be paid by those children who are denied an education.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board is calling out the leader of the teachers unions, Randi Weingarten, of the American Federation of Teachers. Last week she demanded “safety strikes” if local unions deem insufficient the steps their school districts are taking to mitigate Covid-19. An alliance of teachers unions and progressive groups are calling for a “national day of resistance” around the country if their demands are not met. These demands include:
- Support for communities and families – canceling rent and mortgages, a moratorium on evictions/foreclosures; direct cash assistance to those not able to work or unemployed, and other social needs
- Moratorium on new charter or voucher programs and standardized testing
- Massive infusion of federal money to support the reopening funded by taxing billionaires and Wall Street
WSJ editors frame this well: “The phrase for this is political extortion. Rather than work to open schools safely, the unions are issuing ultimatums and threatening strikes until they are granted their ideological wish list. Children, who would have to endure more lost instruction, are their hostages.”
The unions are also lobbying their political allies to keep public charter and private schools closed. They succeeded in Maryland’s Montgomery County where Travis Gayles, the chief health officer, ordered private schools to remain closed until October 1. Fortunately, Marlyland Governor Larry Hogan overruled the commissioner. He said, “Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines.”
The obvious but unstated goal is to eliminate private and charter schools. Public schools are funded whether or not they open because taxpayers continue to pay their taxes. But private and religious schools, which rely on tuition and donations, will suffer when their schools do not reopen. The Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom estimates that 107 private and religious schools have been shut down permanently at least partly due to Covid-19. New York’s Catholic archdiocese has announced the closure of 20 schools.
These private and religious schools, as well as charter schools, represent a threat to teachers unions because their teachers are not union members. They have no control over their teachers and receive no dues from them. The attempt to eliminate their competition is a transparent ploy.
All this comes as no surprise. The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) had earlier revealed their equally progressive demands when California school districts closed their public schools. (Teachers Union Demands Reveal Progressive Agenda) Their demands go far beyond anything remotely related to the safety of children, including demands for Medicare for All, defunding police, and healthcare for illegal immigrants!
Anyone remotely paying attention will quickly realize the only real agenda of the teachers unions is whatever it takes to increase the ranks of their members. This has nothing to do with children or their safety.