Commentary: Teachers unions ignore science, refuse to sacrifice

The harm these people are inflicting on students is abusive. The situation is contemptible, and union leaders are borderline criminals ruining lives of defenseless children for almost a year.

Teachers protest outside of a school in Chicago. (Chicago Teachers Union/Twitter)

Did I want to scribe another column about the malfeasance of public school teachers and unions that protect them? After several pieces, starting in May, heck no; but as a former public school teacher who’s written on educational reform for 17 years — including a book —  here we go again.

I read an editorial Wednesday about the ongoing demands and goalpost moving from unions regarding reopening all schools. I agreed wholeheartedly, and this excerpt is particularly relevant:

“The best evidence we have suggests that schools are not particularly dangerous environments when it comes to COVID-19 — no more and no less dangerous than any other environment. People can and do work, with the proper precautions, in businesses ranging from banks to grocery stores to warehouses. We find it difficult to imagine that the services provided at our public schools are somehow less critical than those offered at 7-Eleven.”

“Distance learning” clearly fails too many students, particularly the most vulnerable. The physical and psychological health damage school closures are doing to children is terrifying.

Meanwhile, researchers at the CDC concluded yet again this week that schools are safe, noting in part, “Many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”

So teachers are unnecessarily fearful and ignore the science and data. Their latest gripe is they don’t want to come back into schools until everyone is vaccinated, and for now, are disgracefully cutting lines in front of higher-risk individuals.

But cashiers, delivery folks, police, doctors, construction workers, meatpackers, oil-refinery personnel, pharmacists, and nearly everyone figured out how to function at work with some risk; they wore masks, socially distanced, and did the best they could, because work needed to be done. I am sure they’d love to sit home like privileged teachers. Very few Americans have the option to live and work in a way that eliminates risk of infection.

Why is it unreasonable to ask public school teachers to do the same? They have not missed a taxpayer-funded paycheck the last 11 months. Teachers in most private schools and open districts somehow figured out how to work in a classroom where risk is mitigated.

Yet as we approach February, more than 75% of urban school districts are still not offering in-person instruction. In my town, three brand new schools were built during the past two years, with our property taxes rising every year to pay for them, as they remain mostly empty.

Another $175 billion recently offered to schools clearly is a ransom payment. Teachers are not going back to work even with all the money in the world. They set “safety” expectations that are impossible to meet, and Democrat leaders back down.

While California probably remains the worst offender, and here in Minnesota it is scarcely better — the number of failing St. Paul students, where school closures have been most draconian, has doubled — Chicago is now taking the ignominious prize for misinformation and nihilistic behavior.

Consider this disingenuous 11th hour video, where participants — most seemingly young and healthy — gave the trite “no one should have to choose between life and livelihood” line.

Setting aside the cringe-worthy nature, it’s part of an anti-child and anti-science campaign that continues today. The harm these people are inflicting on students is abusive. The situation is contemptible, and union leaders are borderline criminals ruining lives of defenseless children for almost a year.

What is President Joe Biden doing? When not setting records for executive orders, he’s kowtowing to activist unions that finance his party; his bumbling chief of staff recently adopted an anti-science position by refusing to stand up to teachers unions.

Since people on both sides of the political aisle are rightly furious about this debacle, it presents a big opportunity for Republicans. During National School Choice Week, support for alternatives to America’s public schools has significantly risen, to nearly 75%.