Teachers Union Claims It Isn’t Blocking Distance Learning: Reality Says Otherwise

Teachers Union Claims It Isn’t Blocking Distance Learning: Reality Says Otherwise

Teachers Union Claims It Isn’t Blocking Distance Learning: Reality Says Otherwise

Teachers’ unions go to great lengths to blur the distinction between the interests of the union financial enterprise and those of families and students. Why else would they refer to an “employee gain” operation as an “education association?”

But the façade of union operators is slipping as they seek to “never let a crisis go to waste.”

With the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, union opportunists are kneecapping competitors to improve their market share of the education services.

Growing the market share of dues-paying educators

It’s an obvious conclusion that distance learning is the way to reduce the learning loss due to closed schools. In this “information age,” the use of interactive and customized education methods should be — and almost certainly would be — much farther along if not  for pushback from unions and an education bureaucracy fully invested in factory-model schools with outdated schedules, staffing strategies and payroll.

Still today, few schools use creative, distance-overcoming education approaches to serve families. In union-dominated states, those schools that do are typically charter schools or alternative programs.

With the social-distance policies across the nation, these creative programs hit center stage. Public schools are getting pressure to emulate practices they had refused to embrace previously.

This forces unions to find ways to prevent conscientious parents from joining the ranks of those using distance-learning programs.

In Oregon, where unions heavily dominate every aspect of government, they simply require distance-learning programs to turn away students. The Wall Street Journal blew the whistle on this abuse of power in an editorial “Oregon’s Coronavirus Education Lockdown – Teachers unions block kids from transferring to virtual charter schools.”

“… the teacher’s unions were alarmed by this mass exodus from the public schools. Under pressure from the unions, the Oregon Department of Education stopped allowing transfers on March 27. At Oregon Connections Academy, this means some 1,600 students who had sought to transfer won’t be able to, says Jeff Kropf, the school’s founder and president of the board of directors.

It could be worse. The state Department of Education originally contemplated closing down virtual public charters along with the brick-and-mortar schools, according to a March 24 PowerPoint presentation reviewed by the newspaper Willamette Week. Even during a national crisis, unions would rather deprive students of an education than see their charter-school competitors succeed.”

Likewise, the Pennsylvania State Education Association prodded lawmakers to prevent the growth of charters by passing legislation to prevent funding any students who seek to transfer to virtual charter schools during the COVID shutdown.

When the federal government announced intentions to invest in tools to provide distance learning, the NEA went ballistic.

Education Secretary DeVos said:

“We will propose Congress provide micro-grants to help students continue to learn.  These would be focused toward the most disadvantaged students in our states or communities, where their school system has simply shut down.  I’ve always believed education funding should be tied to students, not systems, and that necessity has never been more evident.

We’ll also support micro-grants to teachers to help them pivot to supporting all of their students in a different environment than they’ve been used to.  We know they are dealing with an unprecedented situation, but it’s been truly inspiring to hear story after story of teachers rising to the occasion and meeting the unique needs of each of their students.”

The National Education Association objected to even the hint that money might go directly to students rather than their dominated system, Its response was quick and harsh:

NEA president Lilly Garcia warned:

“It is shameful that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would use a pandemic like the coronavirus to, once again, push her failed privatization agenda to defund public schools … Congress should again reject any such proposal she brings forward.”

The Ohio Education Association president used his weekly address to likewise announce the union’s efforts to lobby against any funding enhancements for those outside of the unionized school fold.

The power of the union could be used to truly compete in providing much-needed digital learning opportunities, but instead, union officials are drawing a line in the sand around the status quo.

In California, unions are preventing adaptation to distance learning until their members’ interests are fully satisfied. Politico reports:

“Teachers unions across the state are demanding rules for distance-learning obligations, holding up at-home lessons for students — especially in districts that already had fractured labor relationships. ‘These important emergency declarations have not suspended obligations to negotiate with unions,’ California Teachers Association spokesperson Claudia Briggs said.”

The Washington Education Association and doubtless other unions around the country have raised the question of “equity,” which essentially argues that if a service cannot be provided equally to all students, it shouldn’t be provided at all.

WEA stated, “Gov. (Jay) Inslee and OSPI Superintendent (Chris) Reykdal have to figure out how to guarantee an education for those kids without distance-learning options, including regular mail.”

Programs around the state were halted and the largest districts, Tacoma and Seattle would not offer distance learning.

The union offered assurances that it “is not blocking distance-learning instruction for our students and their families.”

The union doth protest too much, methinks.

Senior Policy Analyst
Jami Lund is the Freedom Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst. From 2004 to 2011, he developed legislative policy as a research analyst for the Washington House Republican Caucus. Prior to that he worked for the Freedom Foundation as the Project Manager for the Teachers Paycheck Protection project, shepherding the development of the Foundation’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court case to protect teacher rights. Jami is an accomplished speaker and researcher, one of Washington state’s top scholars on education policy and finance.