Intransigent teachers unions losing parental support

As readers of this column know, I support teachers unions.  But I think they are making a mistake by opposing reopening of schools.  New York City, home of the nation’s largest school district, is a case in point (“United Federation of Teachers is proving itself the enemy of New York’s parents,” New York Post, Nov. 18).

Despite scientific evidence that students in schools are relatively safe from Covid-19, UFT remains adamant in opposing reopening their doors.  As a result, taxpayers are beginning to suspect that the union is far more concerned with the narrow interests of its member than with the students they are paid to teach.

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5 Replies to “Intransigent teachers unions losing parental support”

  1. Teachers unions are acting to protect the teachers (and kids) from covid. That is reasonable.

    The problem is the tradeoff between protecting teachers (and kids) from covid and damaging the kids’ educational outcomes/parents’ childcare needs.

    In-person schools increase the covid risk to teachers/kids/kids’ families. Virtual schools increase the damage to the kids’ educational outcomes/parents’ childcare needs.

    What is the correct balance to be struck?

    For many jobs, the job either obviously can be done only in-person or obviously can be done just as well (or almost as well) virtually. Police, hospital RNs, supermarket cashiers, carpenters, and bartenders can only do their jobs effectively in person. Many/most white-collar employees can do their jobs just as well virtually.

    Teachers are one of the professions that are in a middle zone — they can do their teaching job pretty well for most students virtually although they cannot perform their childcare job virtually + US society generally places for greater emphasis on the teaching job than on the childcare job, so the teachers’ inability to do the childcare job virtually receives relatively little emphasis in public discussions.

    No obviously “right” answer here. The “right” answer probably depends on several variables, including the community infection rate and whether we’re talking about pre-K through grade 6 students (virtual much less effective for teaching, childcare very important, covid illness/contagion probably less) vs. grade 7-12 students (virtual much more effective for teaching, childcare relatively unimportant, covid illness/contagion probably greater).

    Finally, I do wonder how those white-collar folk who are working remotely while they demand that teachers return to the classroom would feel if their employers required them to return to their offices?


  2. Labor Lawyer: Most parents want schools to reopen because the threat to health from Covid-19 is relatively low. Yet rather than accede to their wishes, teachers unions take an intransigent position. That is bound to lose them support since they say they care about their students.


    1. I personally know many parents of K-12 students who, when given the choice of in-person or virtual, opted for virtual. None of these parents are themselves high-risk (so far as I know), although many have at least occasional contact with their own parents (my friends) who are in their 60s or older so they are concerned that covid brought home by the kids might ultimately infect the grandparent generation.

      Again — I suggest that most of the white-collar work-from-home parents who are criticizing the teachers/teachers unions for trying to stay virtual would themselves be very upset if their employers required them to return to their offices.

      Seems to me that the compelling argument for re-opening the schools is to provide childcare for the pre-K through grade 6 + under that argument, the re-opening must be full-time for 5-days/week not a mixed bag of some days virtual, some days in-person.


  3. Labor Lawyer: New York City may be an aberration, but most parents there want schools to reopen. They point to parochial schools which have remained open, with very few cases of Covid. I’d like to know why.


  4. I think that the jury is still out re how much damage would be done by reopening in-person instruction.

    From what I’ve read, pretty much everyone agrees that very few kids themselves get seriously sick/die from covid.

    However, there is little agreement — at least little scientific evidence — re the extent to which the kids transmit the disease to each other and, most importantly, to adults. For example, if Adult X gets a positive covid test, across-the-board testing in K-12 schools and contact tracing in the US are so weak that it’s impossible to reliably determine whether X got the covid from X’s 3rd-grade son, from X’s policeman husband, or from X’s co-workers at the supermarket.

    Yes — there are studies showing that covid rates in a community stay low when schools re-open when covid rates in the community are low. But, that does not answer the critical question of what happens when schools re-open when covid rates in the community are climbing or are high.

    And, if the community re-opens the schools when covid rates in the community are low with the plan to close schools if/when covid rates start to rise, then by the time the covid rates start to rise and the community closes the schools, a lot of avoidable damage may have already been done. This is NYC’s problem today.


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