Stan Greer: Who should run America’s public schools?

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Stan Greer, senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.

In a report aired early last month concerning President Joe Biden’s flailing efforts to live up to his campaign rhetoric about reopening schools safely and expeditiously, CBS news noted that, in a number of states, the vast majority of kids already had the option of in-person instruction.

Citing data from the respected Burbio website, CBS specified that Florida and Wyoming were already offering face-to-face teaching to nearly all students. More than 70% of all schoolchildren in four other states — Alabama, North Dakota, Texas and Utah — were able to attend school full-time and in-person at their and their parents’ discretion.

All six of these states have one important thing in common: long-standing Right to Work laws that prohibit the firing of employees for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union.

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By last summer, a worldwide scientific consensus had emerged that kids could return to school safely, full-time, while taking a few simple and relatively inexpensive precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, as CBS went on to report, there had been very little progress towards reopening in a number of other states:

“[M]ore than 75% of all student in Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, California, Washington and Virginia had access only to remote learning for the last 10 months.”

In all but one of these states (Virginia is the sole exception), employees lack Right to Work protections, and government union bosses wield extensive monopoly-bargaining privileges over K-12 teachers and other public employees.

Under monopoly-bargaining laws in states like Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, California and Washington, public officials who are elected themselves, or appointed by elected officials, do not get to decide on their own whether kids return to the classroom or not. They need government union bosses’ permission to do practically anything.

And in states without Right to Work laws, Big Labor’s forced union dues-fueled political clout is typically so great that public officials are hesitant even to attempt to persuade manifestly reluctant government union chiefs to agree to reopen schools.

By last summer, a worldwide scientific consensus had emerged that kids could return to school safely, full-time, while taking a few simple and relatively inexpensive precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The fact that, as of early March, fewer than half of public schoolchildren were receiving face-to-face instruction from their teacher, in the classroom and five days a week, is primarily the fault of pro-union monopoly state labor laws. Of course, school board members who are owned and operated by Big Labor, often found in Right to Work states such as Virginia as well as forced-dues states, are also part of the problem.

And since President Biden was inaugurated in January, his administration has been cynically furnishing union bosses with excuses to keep schools shuttered, despite clear evidence they can safely stay open virtually everywhere, including in high-COVID-19 transmission and densely populated communities.

On February 12, Biden appointees at the CDC, after receiving “input” from top teacher union bosses, issued outrageous “reopening” guidance that would, if adhered to, force even many schools that are already open and not spreading COVID-19 to shut down again.  For example, the Biden CDC’s guidelines state schools should try to keep kids at least six feet apart, even though the World Health Organization recommends three feet of distancing, and there is no evidence six feet are needed in classrooms with universal masking.

Of course, union bosses like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten love six-feet distancing, because school districts instituting this rule will have to hire vast numbers of additional unionized teachers to educate the same number of kids full-time and in-person.

The inexcusable failure of most American public schools to reopen public schools since they “temporarily” shut down a year ago has taken a heavy toll on the educational progress and mental health of America’s children and teenagers.

One potential silver lining of this catastrophe is that it could force many elected officials in states that have granted monopoly-bargaining privileges to government union bosses at last to recognize that they have a duty to revoke all such privileges.

Repeal of state government-sector monopoly-bargaining laws won’t undo the damage already done by the unnecessary loss of in-person education for an entire year in many American communities as a consequence of the extraordinary coercive power accorded to a relative handful of union bosses.  But it would help ensure such fiascos aren’t repeated in the future.

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10 thoughts on “Stan Greer: Who should run America’s public schools?


    Academic Freedom Code For K-12 Schools

    (A Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility for Educators in K-12 Public Schools)

    Whereas the purpose of public education in America is to produce knowledgeable and competent adults able to participate as informed citizens in the democratic process;

    Whereas this purpose is best served by offering students a curriculum that is non-partisan and non-sectarian;

    Whereas it has been established through various means that many teachers in K-12 classrooms are abusing taxpayer resources and abusing their ability to speak to captive audiences of students in an attempt to indoctrinate or influence children to adopt specific political and ideological positions on issues of social and political controversy;

    Whereas public school teachers are public employees who have been hired for the purpose of teaching their subjects and not for the purpose of using their classrooms as a platform for political, religious, anti-religious, or ideological advocacy;

    Whereas it has been established that some teacher training institutions, teacher licensing agencies, state education departments and professional teacher organizations have condoned this behavior under the guise of “teaching for social justice” and other sectarian political doctrines;

    Whereas time spent on political or ideological indoctrination takes time away from instruction in the academic subjects taught by public educational institutions including the foundational subjects of mathematics, science, English, history, and civics and prevents students from receiving the best possible public education as funded by the taxpayers of this state;

    Whereas parents and taxpayers have a right to expect that taxpayer resources will be spent on education, not political or ideological indoctrination;

    Therefore be it resolved that this state’s [board of education or other relevant regulating body] will promulgate clear regulations for appropriate professional and ethical behavior by teachers licensed to teach in this state; that these guidelines shall make it clear that teachers in taxpayer supported schools are forbidden to use their classrooms to try to engage in political, ideological, or religious advocacy.

    At a minimum, these regulations shall provide that no teacher is permitted during class time or while otherwise operating within the scope of employment as a teacher in a public educational institution to do the following (these provisions do not apply to the students themselves):

    (1) Endorse, support, or oppose any candidate or nominee for public office or any elected or appointed official regardless of whether such official is a member of the local, state, or federal government;

    (2) Endorse, support, or oppose any pending or proposed legislation or regulation regardless whether such legislation or regulation is pending, proposed, or has been enacted at the local, state, or federal level;

    (3) Endorse, support, or oppose any pending or proposed court litigation regardless of whether such court case or judicial action is at the local, state, or federal level;

    (4) Advocate one side of a social, political or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy;

    (5) Endorse, support, or engage in any activities that hamper or impede the lawful access of military recruiters to campus; and

    (6) Endorse, support, or engage in any activities that hamper or impede the actions of state, local, or federal law enforcement;

    The regulations promulgated pursuant to this act shall apply to all teachers at public educational institutions, tenured and non-tenured. Moreover, the regulations shall contain clear guidelines for enforcement and provide penalties for violations, up to and including termination. The state’s [board of education or other relevant regulating body] shall provide written notification to all teachers, parents, and students of their respective rights and responsibilities under the regulations promulgated pursuant to this act and shall provide at least three hours of annual continuing teacher education instruction to teachers to instruct them regarding their responsibilities under said regulations.

    Moreover, we call on the state’s professional teacher organizations and unions to voluntarily adopt an educators’ code of ethics and professional responsibility that incorporates the above principles and specifically prohibits teachers in K-12 schools from using the classroom for political indoctrination.

    • Who decides who is indoctrinating who?

      “There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” ― Tom Robbins, American Novelist

      To those who believe there are two kinds of people, everything is Black or White, Good or Evil, Friend or Foe. To others, not so much.

      To those who believe they are Black or White, Good or Evil, everyone who believes there are two kinds of people are Friends, while those who are smart enough to know better are their Foe.

      To those who believe there are two kinds of people, they have but two choices: Defend or submit. Those smart enough to know better have more options and, therefore, have the advantage, if and when they choose to take it.

  2. So far, only Mr. Shepard has touched on the most important education option. It doesn’t matter whether or not a school is an open shop (non-union) or closed shop (unionized). It doesn’t matter whether or not The State governs a school’s management, or a local town is in charge, or a school district. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone or everyone agrees what a given school’s curricula should be or what facilities they provide. None of this one-size-fits-all perspective matters. None of it.

    What matters is what parent’s think is best for their children. They can decide for themselves, they can watch and follow their friends and neighbors, they can do what The State recommends, or they can flip a coin.

    If there is anything I can say with certainty, …after sending my children to public schools, tuitioned private schools, homeschooling…after serving on local school boards…after serving on the national Workforce Investment Board (liaison between businesses and schools)…after sitting on more community roundtable education discussion forums than I care to think about – if there is ANYTHING I can say with certainty, it is that no two people will ever agree 100% on what the best education system is. Ever!

    This debate comes down to two concepts. Do parents want a curriculum that reinforces individual merit, or do they want a collective commonwealth (the proverbial everyone-gets-a-trophy crowd). My local WNESU is promoting the later. And while a significant portion of the parents who send their children to these WNESU schools would rather emphasize the recognition of individual effort and success, they have no choice in the matter… which explains why 50% of the students in the school graduate without meeting minimum grade level standards, why only 40% go on to college, and why half of those who do attend college never graduate (while racking up huge debts).

    If, as a society, we can’t allow parents the authority to choose the education that best meets the needs of their children, perhaps failing from time to time along the way and learning from the experience, we will NEVER succeed as a society.

    Of this we can be certain.

  3. I worked for the government and was a union member and went to meetings and heard what they espoused. Then I went to management and heard the other side. My education taught me that the union is only concerned about keeping the union leaders rich in funds and out of physical work. They did not care about the people they served. Ultimately, due to their recalcitrance, they caused everyone to loose their jobs to contractors, who rehired the union members, without the union, and for less money. All this in consolidated facilities that most needed to move to at their own expense. Unions were useful at one time but no longer. The Towns should go back to running their schools without union interference.

  4. The American Federation of Teachers needs to follow the Air Traffic Controller’s Union into oblivion!

    • RIGHT ON !!!
      I remember that; safety in the skies, right to travel, public safety.

      Teacher’s Unions have little concern for school children, families, tax payers.. Not every family has internet, few families have a screen for every child and themselves!

      School children, especially elementary have little chance of getting an active case of virus, or of passing it on to a hapless teacher.

      Our children have been tortured for a school year, who can stand to look at incoming video for 8 hours a day, certainly not a 3d grader. Fear, boredom isolation, mental stress, parents stressed enough to also affect their children with the chaos of no school this year. perpetual endless “snow days??”

      This is cruel and unusual punishment” for every student and every PO’d taxpaying family. $15,000 per student – taxes down the drain!!

  5. The teachers unions and politicians should be out and either the school boards have honest control or eliminate them. Montpelier dictates and the Tax Dept funds it all via property taxation to support the corruption.

  6. The other, and I would say much better, option is for parents to select a different education option than the state-controlled option for their children. A system that treats children as pawns is not a system that any caring parent should put their children in the middle of. Many of the state-responses to the virus from China has made that a clear as day. Every education option is training a form of thinking. Before selecting an option, study the curriculum, study the mindset of most of the teachers and administrators and determine if they are advancing a form of thinking that will give your child the future you want for your child. Does it respect people, regardless of their views? Does it train children to think? Does it equip them with useful tools for life or does it waste 12 or 13 years of the child’s life? These are real questions every parent should find answers too.

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