School is canceled in California

By Larry Sand
July 21, 2020

Governor Newsom and teachers unions nix in-person instruction for most school kids in the fall.

The writing was on the chalkboard when the California Teachers Association released a statement on July 8th asserting that, due to coronavirus concerns, schools should not open in the fall. The following day, the United Teachers of Los Angeles echoed a similar sentiment, but was far more detailed and blunter than CTA. Not bothering to mince words, UTLA released a 17-page “research paper” – or, more accurately, a manifesto – in which the union larded up their occasional coronavirus concerns with sweeping political demands, including Medicare for all, a wealth tax, a millionaire tax, defunding the police, guaranteed housing, financial support for illegals, a moratorium on charter schools, et al.

UTLA ended its screed with a statement that would have made Karl Marx beam. “As it stands, the only people guaranteed to benefit from the premature physical reopening of schools amidst a rapidly accelerating pandemic are billionaires and the politicians they’ve purchased.”

Is it any surprise that socialist Bernie Sanders was UTLA’s presidential choice?

The Los Angeles Unified School District fell into line on July 13th, announcing that students will not return to the classroom in the fall because of the virus. The final shoe dropped on July 17th when Governor Gavin Newsom shut down in-person education in the Golden State for all but a handful of schools in sparsely populated areas.

So California kids are just going to have to communicate with their teachers online, right? Well, maybe. As reported by EdSource’s John Fensterwald, CTA claims that “school districts lack the authority to force teachers to do live online instruction or to record lessons for later use.” The union points to Education Code 51512, a 1976 law that provides privacy protections for teachers. “It prevents unauthorized recording in a classroom and requires a teacher’s and a principal’s consent for the use of any ‘listening or recording device.’” So each teacher will have to okay online instruction. While most educators will likely go forth with online learning, parents need to be aware that a teacher can legally opt out.

At the same time as the California education duopoly is canceling school for millions of kids in the name of “science,” many child health experts are urging schools to reopen with in-person classes this fall. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics, having weighed the pros and cons, maintains that schools should reopen for in-person learning for children’s overall well-being. The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year “should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”

Needless to say, many parents are unhappy being at the mercy of Big Guv-Big Union diktats. Concerned Parents Los Angeles and Speak UP are two grassroots organizations that are trying to counter the education establishment’s one-size-fits-all edicts via town halls, workshops, lobbying school boards, etc.

The best way out of this mess would be to start funding students rather than the bureaucracy. If a school district or the state decides not to hold classes, a parent should be able to use their education dollars to fund their child’s education elsewhere. As Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the Reason Foundation, wrote recently, “If public schools can’t reopen, or aren’t equipped to provide adequate education online, families shouldn’t be forced to pay for them. Think of it this way: If a Walmart doesn’t reopen, families can take their food stamps elsewhere. If a school doesn’t reopen, families should similarly be able to take their education dollars elsewhere.”

While Newsom’s shut-down fiat included private schools, this change would still be a blessing for many, notably single parents, who must get back to work. They could use the money to help defray their child’s education via a homeschool co-op or a pod arrangement, for example.

After Newsom’s July 17th decision to close schools, California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley stated, “Today’s decision elevates the appearance of safety over actual student safety. A growing body of evidence suggests school closures do little to flatten the epidemic curve, while an abundance of evidence shows they are a calamity for kids.” Kiley added, “By giving himself political cover, Governor Newsom has exposed millions of kids to untold trauma and loss. The impacts of school closures will be devastating for working parents, academic equity, and mental health.”

Kiley nailed it. It is clearer than ever that in the current system, children and their families are nothing more than political footballs and cash cows for the bureaucrats and unionistas. This must end. Now.

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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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