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OPINION

Teachers Union Thuggery

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

If thugs were hurting your kid, you'd do almost anything to stop them. The harm inflicted by the teachers unions is legalized thuggery. Here's what you can do.

The tragic consequences of union strong-arming will be on display Wednesday, when a House subcommittee grills American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on how the unions muscled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February 2021 into setting impossible-to-meet requirements for reopening schools during COVID.

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Closing schools in the spring of 2020, when no one understood COVID, was understandable. But once science showed negligible risk to students in returning to the classroom, prolonging closures became child abuse. Yet on orders from the Biden White House, the CDC followed the unions' dictates instead of the science.

School closures led to severe learning loss, setting back many kids for years, possibly the rest of their lives. "This is potentially going to be a real problem for this generation," warns University of Oxford researcher Bastian Betthauser. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company calls the impact on students' basic skills "grim." A staggering 37% of high school students reported suffering mental health struggles during the lockdowns, according to a CDC survey.

Weingarten has already lawyered up for the hearing. Expect fireworks but no concrete changes. State laws, not Congress, determine what powers teachers unions have.

Listen up, parents. Protecting your kids from the unions requires waging political warfare, state by state.

Action is urgently needed. Since 2008, learning progress in public schools has stagnated, and U.S. kids are falling behind their peers in other countries. The COVID lockdowns dealt a devastating blow, but schools were in crisis long before that.

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Laws in 38 states guarantee collective bargaining, not just over pay but often over every aspect of the school day, even curriculum. Unions use these powers to block school reform, opposing standardized testing, merit pay and teacher accountability. And to stuff the curriculum with political indoctrination -- what the AFT calls "social justice."

The unions also buy political influence outright. The National Education Association and the AFT -- the nation's two biggest teachers unions -- are among the largest donors to politicians, and at least 94% of that money goes to Democrats, according to Open Secrets. No wonder Biden's White House ordered the CDC to grovel to Weingarten and the teachers unions.

It's a racket, explains Philip Howard, author of "Not Accountable," a riveting expose about public unions. They support Democrats handsomely, and in return, they get what they want at the bargaining table.

The good news is that in red and purple states, reformers are pushing to change that. Five states are banning unions from deducting dues from teachers' paychecks, making it harder to raise millions for political clout.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders are also moving to curb unions from dictating curriculum, such as teaching elementary school kids gender theory instead of arithmetic and reading.

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Sadly, deep blue states like Illinois and New York are union captives. That explains the otherwise inexplicably destructive policy the New York State Education Department is adopting. New York is making the abysmal reading and math scores of kids tested just after the lockdowns ended into the baseline or "new normal" against which future students will be measured. That redefines "proficiency" down to rock bottom. A teacher's students only have to do as well as kids who were locked at home with no classroom time at all.

At the end of 2022, Weingarten admitted lockdowns were a mistake and asked for "pandemic amnesty." Expect her to ask for it again at Wednesday's hearing.

No way she deserves that. Everyone makes mistakes, but Weingarten lied to benefit her union members at the expense of the kids.

And she's still doing it. She's supporting a bill, introduced by New York Rep. and former teachers union member Jamaal Bowman, to eliminate federally mandated standardized testing. She claims it's best for kids not to be tested. Ridiculous. Getting rid of tests is a ploy to cover up failing teachers and schools.

Parents, join the fight to limit union power and put kids first.

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Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2023 CREATORS.COM



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