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Archive for January, 2021

44.9% of Teachers are in Unions… Yet USA Today and Other Media Outlets Blame “Unions” for Keeping Schools Closed

January 25, 2021 Leave a comment

The article from USA Today poses the question of whether teachers unions are to blame for keeping schools closed during the pandemic. This is a bad question for at least two reasons: it demonizes a labor group for defending the safety of the children it serves as well as its members; and it grossly oversimplifies a complicated problem. Read this article closely and it will become evident that absent clear national guidelines for reopening parents are as reluctant as teachers to reopen.

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Did School Closures Result in a Suicide Surge… or is this ANOTHER Example of COVID Uncovering a Pre-Existing Condition?

January 25, 2021 Leave a comment

Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an op ed by Erica Green describing a surge in suicides in Clark County NV that many are attributing to the closure of schools due to the pandemic… and yet, a close reading of the article could lead one to conclude that it is yet another underlying problem of public education that COVID uncovered.

As noted in earlier posts and countless articles, the pandemic has compelled policy makers to at long last face underlying problems that impact public schools. The “digital divide” and the inequities in resources and funding for schools have been in place for decades… but they are now laid bare when schools are closed. Schools have long served as the core provider of balanced meals, social and health services, and child care— yet until the pandemic came along these benefits of universal schooling were largely overlooked or, at best, take for granted.

Ms. Greene’s article described some of the other benefits of schooling. First, public schools provide an opportunity for caring adults to monitor the well-being of students— something that is impossible if a child doesn’t log, doesn’t share their picture on Zoom, or is only visible from the neck up. Second, public schools provide healthy social and  emotional outlets for students. Athletics, music, clubs, or just hanging out on playgrounds are all ways children and teens engage socially and emotionally. Many of the case studies cited in Ms. Green’s article missed those opportunities as much– or more– than they missed classes. Finally, schools offer counseling and health to those who require it— services that are far more effective when they are delivered in person than online.

Finally, the surge in unemployment that resulted from the pandemic in and of itself likely had SOME effect on the well-being of children. As Ms. Green notes, the skyrocketing unemployment in Las Vegas, which is dependent on visitors from afar, led to all kinds of family stress. The impact of unemployment is bad in normal circumstances… but when combined with the closure of schools it is even worse.

The bottom line is this: when schools DO reopen and we no longer have to be quarantined, will we remember the need for funding equity? For digital access for all? For counseling, health, and social services in schools? Will the “return to normal” that results from an end to quarantines result in a “return to normal” everywhere else or will we remember the lessons the pandemic has presumably taught us?

Oops! The NEA is Supporting Biden’s Plan for Reopening of Schools! So Much for the False GOP Meme that “Unions Oppose Reopening”

January 22, 2021 Leave a comment

As noted in many previous posts, the GOP and conservative media (including even the NYTimes) have fallen prey to the notion that unions are unequivocally opposed to reopening schools until, well, THAT was never fully fleshed out. In the minds of ALL the GOP and many media outlets, demonizing “the union” is easier than explaining nuances and complicated issues. 

One of President Biden’s more audacious pledges is to re-open schools within 100 days, a pledge that requires that it be accomplished in tandem with the adherence to strict rules to prevent the spread of COVID and sufficient funds to assist economically disadvantaged students. And as this section of the NEA’s press release indicates, the teachers union is on board: 

No one wants to return to in-person learning more than the educators who have dedicated their lives to helping their students succeed, but reopening school buildings must be done safely and equitably.

The new President’s position is based on medical science and focuses on safety more that “the economy”. Teachers, most schools boards, and many parents based their local decisions on safety and equity concerns… but too many local schools were forced into reopening by State mandates that paid no heed to science, safety, or equity… and in those cases the voice of the teachers’ union was the easiest to scapegoat. An when State and local GOP legislators and leaders bullied and intimidated teachers unions it became clear to parents who opposed reopening and school boards that opposed reopening that the GOP schoolyard bullies would intimidate them as well if they spoke up. This led to a simmering anger in communities where a debate on the merits of reopening was never held, a debate that would have been difficult to engage in since there were no clear NATIONAL school reopening standards.

When the dust settles in 100 days the basis for making decisions on opening or not will be clearer and the demonization of teachers will be more difficult to sustain… but I predict that it WILL persist.

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