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Teachers Unions’ Fanatical Hatred Of Children Ignited The Parent Revolution

How have teachers unions responded to parental efforts to get more involved in their kids’ education? By attacking parents, of course.

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Not a single state had universal school choice prior to 2021. In the past three years, eleven states have enacted it. This is a monumental achievement — and more victories for America’s children are imminent. School choice advocates are grateful to the power-hungry teachers unions, which overplayed their hand and sparked a parent revolution.

The teachers unions-induced school closures harmed students academically, mentally, and emotionally, with virtually no reduction in overall coronavirus transmission or child mortality. Parents were understandably furious at the public schools that had broken faith with them during their time of need, and they weren’t going to just sit there and take it.

How did the unions respond to efforts to exert more control? By attacking parents, of course. No, it wasn’t the virus that needed to be defeated. It was you, mom and dad.

The unions publicly smeared parents who had the temerity to suggest that schools should do their jobs. In Chicago, home of the nation’s third-largest public school system, the local union took to Twitter to demonize those who favored reopening schools: “The push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny,” tweeted the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on Dec. 6, 2020.

A few months later, a union member in California named Damian Harmony would say “hold my beer” to the CTU by smearing parents who wanted schools reopened for their supposed “cynical, pearl-clutching, faux-urgency, ableist, structurally white-supremacist hysteria.” That same month, the United Teachers of Los Angeles union called California’s school reopening plan “a recipe for propagating structural racism,” and its president, Cecily “There’s No Such Thing As Learning Loss” Myart-Cruz, accused “white, wealthy parents” of “driving the push behind a rushed return.”

I’m old enough to remember when the term “white supremacist” referred to those — such as neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan — who believed that the white race is superior to other races. Now the unions and their allies were smearing parents as “white supremacists” for the horrible thought crime of wanting their children to go to school.

The smear became a running theme. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the local union voted to reject the school reopening plan as they endorsed a letter by the Educators of Color Coalition, which claimed that the reopening plan was “rooted in white supremacy norms, values, and culture.”

Likewise, 140 members of the Pasco Association of Educators in Washington state claimed in January 2021 that the “culture of white supremacy and white privilege can be seen in our very own community in regards to the decision to reopen schools in a hybrid format, despite rising cases and community spread.” The Washington Post even ran a blog post by a union member in New Haven, Connecticut, lambasting the supposed “racist effects of school reopening” and claiming that a “comorbidity is white supremacy.”

Not to be outdone, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, Mike Friedberg, penned an article asking: “Will We Let ‘Nice White Parents’ Kill Black and Brown Families?” In his telling, it was “white privileged parents” who wanted schools open while “Black and Latine” parents wanted them closed. The reality was that although white parents were, on average, more likely to be ready to return to in-person instruction before minority parents, significant portions of families across the racial and ethnic spectrum wanted in-person instruction.

When the Chicago school district conducted a survey of parents in March 2021, more than four in ten wanted to return to in-person instruction. Although the survey did not identify the race or ethnicity of respondents, about three in ten students who returned that month for in-person instruction at campuses were majority black and majority Latino.

Ironically, the Friedberg article spent several paragraphs claiming that “remote learning is not a lost cause” and that the “‘learning loss’ argument is incredibly flawed.” Not only has massive learning loss been unquestionably documented, but it’s also significantly worse among black students.

According to McKinsey, by the end of the 2020–21 academic school year, students “in majority-Black schools ended the school year six months behind in both math and reading, while students in majority-white schools ended up just four months behind in math and three months behind in reading.” If any policy had racist results, it was the union-pushed school closures and remote learning — which really should be called remotely learning — not parent-backed school reopenings.

The California Teachers Association (CTA) even stooped to spying on parents, conducting what amounts to opposition research, the same as political candidates do on their opponents. A public records request uncovered emails from a union employee asking a public school principal for information about “the ideological leaning of groups that are funding the reopen lawsuits.” She noted that she had heard the principal had “lots of information regarding the Parents Association.”

When another union employee in the email exchange realized that they had accidentally used the principal’s work email, they went into damage control mode, asking him to “delete and disregard” the emails. One union employee was more sanguine, however. “I don’t think there will be an issue,” she wrote, “unless someone does a record request for his work email.”

The hypocrisy of the unions knows no bounds. In March 2021, while the CTA was still fighting tooth and nail to keep schools closed while spying on parents who wanted them open, the president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, Matt Meyer, was caught on camera taking his own kid to an in-person private preschool.

The unions even did oppo research on parents trying new ways of educating their children during the lockdowns. When the unions closed the schools, groups like Prenda helped parents open new “microschools” in their or other parents’ homes, church basements, and anywhere they could find space. Rather than embracing the idea, the unions sought to sabotage it.

Prenda was founded in 2018 by Kelly Smith, an MIT grad who was inspired by his kids’ experience at an afternoon coding club to create a network of small schools (typically five to ten students each) where learning is self-directed with the assistance of online tools and an in-person “guide.” While schools were closed during the pandemic, Prenda received a surge in interest from parents —especially those who wanted the benefits of in-person instruction while limiting their children’s potential exposure. Prenda began 2020 with about one thousand students at one hundred microschools and ended the year with four times that.

Where parents saw an opportunity, the unions saw a threat. Prenda’s rapid growth sent the unions into a panic. What if the kids who left their public schools liked Prenda better? What if they never came back?

The National Education Association hatched a plan: Scare parents away from trying Prenda in the first place. To do that, they wrote up two “opposition reports” (their words), one on microschools generally and one on Prenda specifically. The first one warned union members and their allies: “The Opposition Report has documented widespread support for micro-schools.”

The report identified more than 20 additional microschool networks and related organizations, and recommended that their staff and allies familiarize themselves with a list of anti-microschool talking points the NEA had developed, such as that the microschools “do not guarantee students or educators the same civil rights protections that are required in public schools,” their staff are “not required to be credentialed,” and their students “are not held accountable to state standards of learning.” Of course, none of these issues topped parental concerns about schools being closed.

The second opposition report focused on Prenda specifically and included personal information about Kelly Smith, including his home address and a picture of his house. The report also raised concerns about the “safety” of Prenda and other microschool students who might be exposed to guns, drugs, and unfenced swimming pools.

Union-backed groups like Save Our Schools Arizona used these talking points to lobby the legislature to regulate Prenda and other microschools. Fortunately, state legislators saw through their absurd and self-serving arguments, and microschools continued to flourish.

It was particularly ironic for the unions to argue that using parents’ homes for microschooling was unsafe while the unions were simultaneously arguing that students were not safe at school during the pandemic. Apparently, they weren’t safe anywhere.

Friedberg had claimed his support for keeping schools closed was because he did “not want to risk my students’ lives, their families’ lives, or my own life.” He may well have been sincere in his fears, but not all his colleagues were. Some, like CTU executive board and area vice president Sarah Chambers, seemed to have other motivations for working remotely.

How remotely? Thousands of miles, apparently, as she was tweeting from poolside at a resort in Puerto Rico. “Spending the last day of 2020 poolside,” Chambers wrote from her @sarah4justice Instagram account alongside a selfie of herself lounging by the pool, adding: “We have the whole pool to ourselves.”

These are just some of the egregious union actions that awakened a sleeping giant. For far too long in K-12 education, the only special interests represented were the employees — the adults — in the system. But now, America’s kids finally have a union of their own: their parents.

This is an adapted excerpt from The Parent Revolution: Rescuing Your Kids from the Radicals Ruining Our Schools (Center Street, May 14).


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