Kaufman: Minnesota Teachers’ Unions Make Final Stand Against Students

In the coming days, we’ll finally learn if and when Minnesota teachers will return to work after their seemingly-endless paid vacation. Let’s take another stab at why schools must reopen as soon as possible.

In the coming days, we’ll finally learn if and when Minnesota teachers will return to work after their seemingly-endless paid vacation. Let’s take another stab at why schools must reopen as soon as possible. {You can read my prior musings hereherehere and here.}

Across parts of America that followed the science  — mainly the Great PlainsSoutheast and Southwest — teachers will return to the classroom for in-person instruction within a few weeks. Asia, Europe and elsewhere did long ago, with limited or no issues.

Sadly, large urban and suburban districts — ironically the most well-funded — continue locking kids out and hurting poor families month after month.  It is a political victory for teachers and a defeat for working families, science, and the country, as equal opportunity for all is denied. 

The United States remains the outlier and a global laughingstock in public education. Usually self-styled progressives enjoy bashing America and lauding other nations, but not here?

Those with means can personally assist or pay for co-quarantined educators to tutor their children, as the achievement gap widens. Usually Democrats obsess over class- and race-based issues, but not here?

Millions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds live in homes not conducive to online learning and also rely on schools for food, socialization and assessment of disabilities. Their parents often cannot work from home. Must we reiterate that prolonged time away from school and interruption of associated support services results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits, physical abuse, depression and more?

Scientific research published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Pediatrics indicates children are unlikely to transmit COVID-19 to classmates or family members. Within households, the virus goes from adults to children, not vice versa. If parents and students had as much clout as the teachers’ union, the district would find a way to offer the in-person instruction parents and students seek.

A friend with school-age children in St. Paul shared an email he sent the district this week:

“As a working parent, I have no idea how I can possibly assist my kids on distance learning long term; if I do, I’d have to quit my job. You can’t imagine how burned out we feel. Our kids are behind on every subject as they lose almost a year of normal education. Many of us do not have an opportunity to quit jobs and dedicate time to distance learning, and we receive no support. If parents must assist their kids and replace teachers, the school district should start paying parents instead of teachers.”

 He joined an intrepid group of parents and students at the Minnesota capitol July 11, rallying for schools to reopen

They were opposed, of course, by status quo-perpetuating Education Minnesota. The union allegedly representing 100,000 teachers statewide is again fear mongering and playing ideological politics. They want “more money,” even as paychecks never stop and taxes rise. They’ll get whatever they crave because America’s schools are not underfunded; it’s quite the opposite. Despite our budget woes and bankrupt states, we spend about $15,000 per student; that’s the highest in the world, yet our schools still lag behind.

Even left-leaning Bloomberg editorialized last week:


“The need for reform is clear — and lack of money, overall, is not the main impediment. Per-pupil spending in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, but the country is getting a very poor return. According to the most recent assessment, two-thirds of eighth graders fail to meet proficiency standards in math and reading.”

It’s befuddling that small hyper-partisan groups like teachers’  unions triumph over the general public’s concerns. Hence, the priority given to teachers over students and the insistence on reopening other businesses instead of reopening schools. Businesspeople and their employees don’t get paid if they don’t work. Teachers do. And while businesses suffer if they lose customers, teachers get paid the same if they “teach” remotely or sit home watching Netflix while the state and national economies falter.

I know several teachers who claim to abhor online teaching, yet none demand schools find ways to reopen. Places like grocery stores must get the job done while also protecting their staffs. Public schools apparently don’t.

Does in-person instruction come with some risk? Sure. So does working in a crowded factory or warehouse. We cannot rid ourselves of risk, so we adapt. Teachers should not leave students behind. Despite media-driven panic, COVID-19 cases have mostly plateaued, and deaths have plummeted, especially in Minnesota, for months. Science says it’s time to go back to work.