The Sandstorm: Are Union Chickens Coming Home To Roost?
Originally featured in For Kids & Country.
America’s children are suffering greatly and teachers may be exiting the profession en masse.
Just last week, the National Education Association released the results of a poll which finds that “55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned.” The NEA claims this is due to the fact that teachers are “exhausted and exasperated” from Covid fallout and are “under an unprecedented level of strain.”
Needless to say, a majority of the ills that teachers are experiencing in their workplace can be traced back to the shutdown hysteria that gripped the nation starting in March 2020. And said hysteria – as it relates to schools – is primarily owned by the NEA and its partner in crime, the American Federation of Teachers, along with their bought-and-paid-for school boards.
In fact, a New York Post exposé revealed that AFT lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on – and even proposed language for – the agency’s school-reopening guidance released in February 2021.Quite obviously the lobbying paid off as, in at least two instances, language “suggestions” offered by the union were adopted nearly verbatim into the final text of the CDC document.” AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner went so far as to describe the union as the CDC’s “thought partner” in an email.
Additionally, in September 2020, researchers Corey DeAngelis and Christos Makridis released the results of a study they spearheaded, which found that “school districts in places with stronger teachers’ unions are much less likely to offer full-time, in-person instruction this fall.” The authors stress that the results were remarkably consistent after controlling for differences in demographics, including age, race, population, political affiliation, household income, Covid cases, deaths per capita, etc.
The union could have admitted that they made a mistake by demanding the shutdowns, and that they unnecessarily scared the daylights out of millions of teachers and kids. But that would only happen in the Twilight Zone. Instead, the union is – yes, you guessed it – asking for higher salaries for teachers, more time to plan, less paperwork, etc. as a way to stave off a mass teacher exodus.
It must be acknowledged that the eternal union mantra of teachers being underpaid and overworked is a great myth. Here in California, for example, the average k-12 educator hauls in $84,531 a year. But as Just Facts reveals, the stated amount of compensation does not include “unfunded pension liabilities and non-pension post-employment benefits like health insurance.” When those costs are factored in, the average teacher salary in the Golden State becomes almost $127,000 per annum. It’s also worth noting that full-time public school teachers work an average of 1,490 hours per year, including time spent for lesson planning, grading, etc., while private industry employees work an average of 2,045 hours per year, or about 37% more than teachers.
Even if the NEA poll is off and 55% of teachers don’t walk out, public education still is facing “a crisis of epic proportions,” as Laura Meckler wrote in a lengthy Washington Post piece last week. Studies have found that virtual school has resulted in students being nearly half a year behind, on average, with the learning loss falling disproportionately on low-income, Black and Hispanic students. And learning loss is just the tip of the iceberg. The social isolation imposed on children has caused a mental health “state of emergency,” per the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids are anxious, stressed, lonely, plagued with suicidal thoughts, and find it difficult to interact with each other. Fights are frequent, campus gun violence is rising, etc.
Internationally, the U.S. has been an outlier. As noted in The Economist, “Over the past two years America’s children have missed more time in the classroom than those in most of the rich world.” During that time U.S. schools typically stayed closed “twice as long as schools in Ireland, three times longer than schools in Spain and four times longer than in France.” And for what? Teachers are at no greater risk of catching Covid than anyone else. And children and early teens are about seven times more likely to be killed in a car crash than die from Covid.
Unions and their all-too-often school board toadies have ignored the impact of their COVID policies on kids, and now with schools reopening, the forced masking of children continues, which science dictates is a pointless endeavor. In fact, some districts like Los Angeles are forcing students to wear surgical masks or N95s – “well-fitted, non-cloth masks with a nose wire” at all times, including outdoors. But as Dr. Vinay Prasad notes, “there are no approved N95s for kids because these masks have not been subject to validation for young people. All masks sold with this moniker are merely ‘N95-style’ masks thought to be equivalent, possibly. Berkeley and other school districts have mandated them anyway, even though no study suggests the policy can slow the spread of COVID.”
Going forward, the education establishment’s fixes to learning loss are pathetic. From here on, college-bound students, nationally, will be taking a dumbed down SAT; the test has been cut from three to two hours, and students can now use calculators. Here in California, it was just reported that the state’s graduation rate held steady during the pandemic. But the major reason for this is that state lawmakers allowed students to have their Fs changed to a passing grade. In college, due to the shutdowns and for political reasons, the equity fanatics have been trying to establish the so-called “ungrading” movement.” Now, at Boston University, students are no longer graded on their writing.
While the guy who stocks the produce shelves at my local supermarket, my dentist, my mailman, and other folks who work with people have stayed on the job, teachers unions demanded that schools remain shuttered, though they still insist that teachers receive full paychecks and benefits, of course. And now they are asking for even more. The unions have accepted no responsibility for the devastating learning loss and psychological damage that will affect many of our children for the rest of their lives.
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.