Issues & Insights
School kids in a classroom. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Teachers’ Unions Want To Keep Schools Closed — Welcome To The ‘Edupocalypse’

I&I Editorial

While Americans across the country continue to work despite the many hardships of COVID-19, teachers’ unions want none of it. They want to keep schools closed, which will benefit their own members greatly but seriously harm school-age kids.

The Twitter hashtag “edupocalypse” has seen some use in recent weeks and months as our nation’s schools closed down and all but stopped teaching. It’s leading to what we think can be called, without exaggeration, an educational crisis. Public schools may never be the same.

You can blame it on the shameful display of self interest by a powerful, politically connected lobby that spends millions on elections every year to make sure they have good friends in Washington, D.C., and every state capital: the teachers’ unions, in particular the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Guess who their “best friends” are? Hint: They control the House of Representatives. That’s right, since 1990, America’s teachers’ unions have given more than $207 million to political campaigns, according to Open Secrets. Over that time, they’ve never given less than 93% of their total donations to the Democrats and average just over 95.7% per two-year political cycle.

The average for Republicans over that 30-year span: 4%.

We mention this because the far-left-of-center teachers’ unions seem to be in a full-court press on keeping schools from opening, despite plentiful evidence from studies that show it’s in children’s best interest to return.

The New York Times, to its credit, revealed the sweeping nature of the teachers’ agenda and their bold attempt to blackmail America’s parents. And it appears to be backfiring:

“(E)ven as unions exert their influence, they face enormous public and political pressure because of widespread acknowledgment that getting parents back to work requires functioning school systems, and that remote learning failed many children this spring, deepening achievement gaps by race and income.”

The Times piece adds: “Some critics see teachers’ unions as trying to have it both ways: Reluctant to return to classrooms, but also resistant in some districts to providing a full day of remote school via tools like live video.”

The idea that for unions this is “all about the students” is false.

“More than 10 teachers unions – including those in Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul – have joined up with the Democratic Socialists of America to say that ‘schools cannot continue in this crisis without the resources our students need and deserve,’ ” Reason Magazine recently commented.

It went on to note the egregiousness of the local and national unions’ extreme demands:

“For starters, those unions want a national ban on evictions, a moratorium on charter schools, an end to voucher programs, and the abolition of standardized testing. They also want a ‘massive infusion of federal money’ – though it is unclear how much that actually is – paid for by, of course, ‘taxing billionaires and Wall Street.’ “

By “massive infusion of money” unions mean more pay for teachers doing less.

Meanwhile, apart from the quasi-Marxist blather, there really is no reason to keep kids out of school.

As the Federalist points out, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the nearly 150,000 Wuhan virus cases in the United States from Feb. 12 to April 2, only about 2,500 were in kids. That’s a mere 1.7% of all infected, which is itself a minority of the country.”

In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that since the pandemic began, at the state level children have accounted for just 0-0.8% of fatalities. Twenty states have had none.

COVID-19 is a major threat mainly to elderly people with lots of comorbidity factors, not to healthy kids. Teachers can be safe by taking the normal precautions of masking up and social distancing – just as store cashiers, doctors and nurses, plumbers, electricians and so many other working people are doing today.

Falling behind academically is a big problem for America’s kids. As studies have shown consistently, lower academic achievement leads to lower incomes and can contribute to all sorts of social ills, ranging from higher levels of drug abuse and alcoholism to higher rates of suicide and mental illness.

What remains unsaid in all this, of course, is that unionizing teachers was a massive mistake in the first place. President John F. Kennedy did some good things while in office. But one of his worst was allowing public workers to unionize in 1962.

Kennedy’s executive order created a slippery slope. By “the late 1960s and 1970s, federal and state union-promoting laws produced unprecedented strikes by teachers, garbage collectors, postal workers and others, even though every state prohibited strikes by public employees,” according to a 2012 piece in the Wall Street Journal. This isn’t a new problem.

Today, teachers’ unions have unprecedented power over how your kids are educated. The national associations, and their state and local counterparts, have immense clout within school systems. They can dictate per-student spending, class size, administrative decisions and, of course, curriculum and teachers’ pay and perks.

Twenty-first century students know little about their nation’s actual history. They’re taught we’re all racists and America is both immoral and irredeemable. Oh, and capitalism is evil. By the time they’re in college, they’re already spouting neo-Marxist nonsense. It’s a big reason why we’re having riots today.

This is galling, and not acceptable. We would encourage all parents who genuinely care about their school-age kids to look carefully at how the unions wreck educations.

Union bosses know they can fight, buy-off left-wing politicians, and slam the brakes on meaningful school reforms. They wait out each new generation of parents, knowing full well that their kids will soon be out of school and then they’ll have a new group of parents to bully, confuse and placate.

If we’re all lucky, this generation of parents will tire of the lies and promises not kept by the unions and the administrative educrats, and begin seriously looking at alternatives, including charter schools, proven private-school programs, and successful online academies, among other elements of school choice.

At the very least, parents should have the right to opt out of a dysfunctional educational system. They should have real “choice”: Their tax money spent on local failing schools should be rebated for the schooling of their choice.

Even so, in the long run, the goal should be to de-unionize public schools. As an experiment, it’s been an abysmal failure.

As an I&I op-ed recently explained, “the latest DOE data show that inflation-adjusted spending per public school student is at an all-time high and has grown by 20% since 2000, 93% since 1980, and (380%) … since 1960.” And yet, scores on national tests haven’t budged.

Can we change this? We can, but it will be hard.

“Unions block the reforms that will structurally change a broken system and in return, promise increased funding, which will, in turn, be drained away by the broken system,” wrote Wisconsin public school teacher Daniel Buck for the Foundation for Economic Education in early 2018. “Namely, they oppose school choice, merit-based pay, standardized tests, and the Praxis, an entrance exam for teachers.”

Nothing has changed. And nothing will, as long as Democrats control one or both houses of Congress. They’re in the unions’ pockets.

This is the “edupocalypse” in a nutshell. More spending, more left-wing political indoctrination, less real learning and lower test scores. It’s time to crack the shell, and make real reforms to our educational system before it’s too late. And it starts by eliminating teachers’ unions and giving control back to parents, taxpayers and local teachers. Or at least letting them choose to opt out of a failing system.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Best thing for children is to go nowhere near these indoctrination camps so keep them closed forever. Defund schools now.

  • If teachers weren’t going to be paid while schools are kept closed, then the unions would be pushing very hard to get those schools open – must keep those union dues flowing…

  • I can think of nothing better for our children than one, keeping them away from public schools and two, keeping a mask off of them allowing them to breathe freely all day long.

    • A favorite of mine. My children, on the other hand, hate hearing that.

  • Test scores will go up! Literacy will increase! Literacy in Massachusetts was 93% before the advent of compulsive public school paid for with coerced funds. Today literacy in Massachusetts stands at 91%! Ending publicly funded unionized babysitters might actually save this country. Hundreds of thousands of dollars per classroom and few Americans seem to understand how viruses are spread.

    Sure, that mask, which you touch, and put in your pocket or purse, and then put back on, and then touch everything, will protect you from viruses!!! Don’t worry about that door handle or credit card keypad! Something something something not airborne really is airborne!!!

    We are too stupid to survive.

  • I’m a retired teacher. Here’s what these unions aren’t taking into consideration: if they drag this out, Americans will develop an alternative to traditional education, leaving the “dinosaurs” behind. Right now, teacher unions think they’re the only game in town and can call whatever shots they want. Keep this up, and you’ll be proven sadly mistaken.

  • Defund Public Schools. The teachers unions have made our education system, third rate, at best. We pay way too much for mediocrity. The outrageous pension plans and countless other perks are bankrupting Cities and states. Further, the public schools have become nothing more than Madrassas, indoctrinating kids with the leftists ideals.

  • liberals demand choice when it comes to reproductive “rights”, but vehemently oppose it when it comes to americans’ right to an education.

  • The NEA and teacher’s unions have launched the “Leave Every Child Behind” program with their attempt to grab more money and power. America is answering with a big NO.

  • Despite medical advice, the South African teachers’ unions have pressured the president and his Command Council to keep the public schools closed until the end of August. This seems similar to CA and other states, where the tail wags the dog.

  • Privatize the schools letting teachers who want to work from home open private schools for those who want to learn at home and then rent out the empty school buildings to groups of teachers who want to provide a traditional education to those who want it.

    Nobody is forced to do or not do anything. Vouchers go to parents who can make the best choice for their children. Competition breeds excellences. Monopoly breeds mediocrity.

  • Stop the teacher’s paychecks and watch them change their tune real quick. If they don’t teach, then they don’t get paid.

  • Fire all those communist teachers. Recruit temporary volunteers among academic pensioners and talented non-academics until good teachers can be hired.

  • “We mention this because the far-left-of-center teachers’ unions seem to be in a full-court press on keeping schools from opening, despite plentiful evidence from studies that show it’s in children’s best interest to return.”

    I’m sure it is. It’s also in the best interest of children that the adults, from teachers, to cafeteria workers, to maintenance staff, to administrators don’t start dropping dead from Covid as a result of schools opening without adequate safeguards in place. Bashing unions for being concerned about the health and welfare of their members is, quite frankly, indefensible, either politically or morally. Shame on the I&I editors for publishing this garbage.

    • Hey Joe, you’re either a teacher or married to one. The union is crap and the teachers whining about going back to work should forfeit their contracts. In thirteen years I never joined the union and I never had a problem with my students. Public school teachers suck!

    • Your post is abject evidence that teachers are not educating our children. Your bizarre belief that unionized part time babysitters deserve to get paid when they don’t even show up for their part time “work”, should shame you. Apparently, like most of the Left and all public school teachers, you are incapable of shame.

  • If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. It’s really that simple.
    Of course, most schools nowadays are nothing more than indoctrination centers.
    More charter schools. More homeschooling.(Not the ‘remote learning’ garbage they are doing now.

  • Wind power onshore is foolish. At sea, it is ludicrous. The writer uses the word ‘boondoggle’, and I would agree. The towers in my area are producing electricity, yes. Without taxpayer subsidy, they would never have been built. Our Colorado legislature had to mandate “renewable energy” laws to make it happen, all in the false belief that we had to save the planet from CO2. Our climate has been changing for eons and will continue to do so whether or not we use fossil fuels. If one takes the time to research the topic, you will realize that global warming/cooling is a false construct. If we really wish to ‘solve’ the ‘climate crisis’, nuclear power is very plainly the answer. Windmills can’t even pay for themselves. Prove me wrong!

  • If the teachers (teachers unions) don’t want to work, fine! But since they’re so into teaching our kids about owning up to privilege, let’s not allow teachers a privilege not afforded other people who have lost jobs over COVID-19 closures…. You don’t want to work? Fine! You forfeit your job.

    Teachers unions need the treatment Ronald Reagan applied to the Air Traffic Controllers.

  • I wonder if the teacher’s union would still want schools closed if they weren’t getting paid to do nothing.

  • I taught high school for thirteen years. The best thing that could happen to this country is to close our public schools permanently, give parents an allowance that can only be used for their children’s education but they have to decide how their children will be educated. The public schools in this country have only two purposes, indoctrinate our kids into leftist thinking and provide useless teachers with an easy, secure income for which they do as little as possible.

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