Stan Greer: Revisiting the Biden-union boss taxpayer rip-off of 2021

This commentary is by Stan Greer, senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.

In 2020 and 2021, a handful of government union bosses successfully deployed the legal monopoly-bargaining privileges they wield in more than 30 states — and the political machine they have been able to build up over decades thanks to those privileges — to prevent schools that had been shuttered by COVID-19 lockdowns from reopening, long after it had become obvious they could do so safely.

As a consequence, America currently faces an “academic, social and psychological disaster” that will “reverberate through society for years, if not decades, to come.”

Wikimedia Commons/AFGE

Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers

A study published late last year found that the post-COVID-19 lockdown rate of chronically absent students across the country is 22%, nearly triple what it was before the prolonged school shutdowns. Standardized test scores have “dramatically declined” in a number of states, and many young children who were subjected to online-learning only for extended periods of time now lack “basic life skills.”

Judging by their words and actions, powerful Big Labor bosses like Randi Weingarten, the longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT/AFL-CIO) union, were never much concerned about kids’ mental and physical health and academic progress being harmed by misguided policies based on the false idea that schools and schoolchildren were COVID-19 “superspreaders.”

Instead, Weingarten and her cohorts saw the pandemic as an opportunity to ram through a huge, and potentially permanent, increase in the amount of money extracted from federal taxpayers to fund K-12 government schools, which across most of the country are overwhelmingly unionized.

Just a few weeks after the government-imposed business lockdowns and school closures commenced in March 2020, Congress and then-President Donald Trump okayed the so-called “CARES” Act, which handed out more than $200 billion in direct relief to states and localities. A substantial share of that money was to be funneled to government schools. But the union hierarchy wasn’t satisfied.

In June 2020, AFT union officials issued a joint statement claiming that government schools needed “at least” another $116.5 billion to reopen, on top of the roughly $670 billion per academic year they raked in pre-COVID-19 and the tens of billions of additional dollars they would get under the “CARES” Act. Unless Congress forked over the loot supposedly required for “safe” reopenings, insisted Weingarten, schools wouldn’t reopen at all.

First as a presidential candidate and subsequently as President, Joe Biden insisted Weingarten and her cohorts were 100% right. During his September 29, 2020 presidential debate with Trump, for example, Biden simply ignored the fact that public schools had already reopened safely in Right to Work states like Georgia, Indiana, Florida and Texas. Schools weren’t open, he claimed, because “it costs a lot of money to open them safely”!

A couple of months into the Biden Administration, Big Labor’s factually challenged campaign to shake down taxpayers paid off. In March 2021, Congress rubber-stamped, as part of its $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” (ARP), $122 billion distributed directly to government schools to facilitate their reopening.  Roughly another $70 billion in ARP money was expected ultimately to go to government schools via state government entities.

By the end of the 2020-21 academic year, 70% of American public school students were being instructed in-person full time, and an additional 28% were being partially instructed in-person. This fall schools are expected to be largely back to normal even in union boss-dominated California, where a smaller share of classes occurred in-person during the pandemic than in any other state.

Notably, this return to normalcy occurred while the overwhelming majority of the ARP money collected for “safe” school reopenings was being horded in school treasuries. In fact, according to a May 18 report for the Wall Street Journal,  a whopping 93% of the $122 billion in ARP money set aside exclusively for K-12 government schools remained unspent even as the 2021-22 academic year was drawing to a close!

In other words, what Randi Weingarten, Joe Biden, and many other Big Labor bosses and Big Labor politicians said during the COVID-19 school lockdowns wasn’t remotely true.

Instead of spending the COVID-19 windfall on safety enhancements education officials themselves evidently knew weren’t necessary, school district after school district is now spending the money on “teacher recruitment and retention.” Meanwhile, disenchanted parents continue pulling their kids out of such districts in vast numbers. And when the windfall is spent, government union bosses can be expected to demand more bailouts from federal taxpayers.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia Commons/AFGE

One thought on “Stan Greer: Revisiting the Biden-union boss taxpayer rip-off of 2021

  1. and now we know why the curricula has changed……and to follow standardized testing for the same “new curricula” thus hiding the fact that “gov” schools are not actually educating students
    I am hopping mad about this whole thing…with 3 grands who suffered thru this past 2 years I do believe we will see results of this.
    Choice is the only answer …..”gov” schools need competition more than ever

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