Editor’s note: This commentary is by Stan Greer, senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.
This spring, government union bosses like Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT/AFL-CIO), are continuing to claim it remains too dangerous to reopen fully thousands and thousands of K-12 schools across the country that closed their doors in early 2020.
But a recent poll shows that parents of the very schoolchildren whom Weingarten and her cohorts purport to be concerned about lopsidedly disagree.
A nationwide scientific survey of K-12 parents conducted Feb. 14-21 by Gallup found that, by nearly a 4-to-1 margin, parents support “providing in-person schooling for elementary and secondary students” in their own community “right now.”
As Gallup researcher Megan Brenan explained in a March 11 news release summarizing the poll’s findings, “majorities of parents across major demographic subgroups are supportive of in-school learning” for K-12 students of all ages.
Overall, 79% of K-12 parents support an immediate return of face-to-face learning in the classroom. Broken down by party affiliation, 94% of GOP parents, 80% of independent parents, and 62% of Democrat parents are supportive of reopening schools.
Common sense tells us parents care about the well-being of their own children more than anyone else does.
The vast majority of K-12 parents across every region of America support an immediate return to full-time classroom instruction in their communities if it isn’t happening already, and sticking with it if it is already happening, because they know it’s safe. Parents also support school reopening because they know their own children make better educational progress and are happier when schools are open.
Scientific research from around the world confirms that all kinds of schools in all kinds of communities can be open full-time without posing any meaningful COVID-19 risk to children.
Despite the fact that they clearly have already lost in the court of parents’ opinion, as well as in the broader court of public opinion, teacher union bosses across much of the country are still furiously trying, at this writing, to derail school reopenings by terrifying parents into keeping their kids at home.
An April 14 Detroit News op-ed by Michigan Education Association union President Paula Herbart called for a “temporary” ban on all in-person learning for high school students in the Wolverine State, claiming falsely that COVID-19 presents a “serious” threat to children’s health.
As well-informed parents across America know, school-aged children are even less likely to fall seriously ill or die from COVID-19 than they are from the seasonal flu, though COVID-19 is far more dangerous than the flu for many older Americans.
For the past year, teacher union bosses have been misrepresenting the facts about COVID-19 as part of a concerted campaign to extract additional hundreds of billions of dollars from taxpayers for the unionized government schools they largely control, thanks to more than 30 state laws authorizing and promoting union monopoly bargaining in public education.
This shakedown has succeeded, again and again. Just this March, for example, Big Labor President Joe Biden signed a so-called COVID-19 “stimulus” bill that furnished government schools with roughly $200 billion over the next few years, regardless of whether they reopen or not.
But by early this spring, it was evident that teacher union-boss exploitation of COVID-19 as a tool for bilking taxpayers could not continue much longer, as more and more Big Labor politicians decided they could not continue to flout public opinion by keeping schools closed.
It was at this time that Weingarten, who is a political powerhouse primarily because her AFT union conglomerate wields monopoly-bargaining power over teacher pay, benefits and work rules in large cities throughout America, began bizarrely lashing out at parents who want their kids’ schools to reopen and stay open.
Weingarten’s unhinged attacks on so-called “ownership class” and “privileges” parents who oppose her and other union bosses’ taxpayer shakedowns underscore how dangerous monopoly-bargaining privileges are in her hands.