Across the country, millions of families are faced with cobbling together strategies to make a new school year work. In many places, schools could have been working on better solutions, or at least not resisting them. Legislators could have helped by expanding educational options for students and providing the financial support to follow.
Liberals have stood on the wrong side of education reform for decades. Backers of a Biden presidency should know the tide will turn against supporting families with greater choice in education, even during a pandemic.
In many politically liberal school districts, public schools have gone into virtual retreat instead of working overtime to find non-traditional solutions. Creative minds could think of many possibilities: grouping smaller cohorts of students, alternating schedules, ensuring students with special needs receive on-site services. In some places, this is happening. Other districts, however, spent the entire summer in limbo and defaulted to “virtual” learning which most recognize was a real failure in the spring,
This has left many working parents in a lurch, including those in my Northern Virginia community.
Parents are concerned about health, but they are also scrambling for strategies. They are the ones getting creative since their school administrators aren’t. Districts run by left-leaning school boards have started warning against innovative pod learning, even shaming parents against such alternatives in the name of “equity.” Here’s what Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) said in a Message for Parents on Tutoring Pods:
“While FCPS doesn’t and can’t control these private tutoring groups, we do have concerns that they may widen the gap in educational access and equity for all students. Many parents cannot afford private instruction. Many working families can’t provide transportation to and from a tutoring pod, even if they could afford to pay for the service.”
Knowing parents are desperate for options, FCPS has figured out how it can use the crisis to its financial advantage. A number of schools will offer paid childcare for elementary-aged students charging parents up to $1500 a month for the privilege of sending their students through the schoolhouse door.
Entrepreneurial parents might soon find that other educational options are more effective than the traditional schools – more time on fact-based academic learning, and none on feelings-based self-awareness lessons and gender unicorns. They might just start to question the value of their local tax dollars going to these agenda-driven government-run schools.
The National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have resisted returning to class and undermined strategies to cope with school closures, exposing how the liberal establishment stands guard over an old-world education order. Their vocal opposition sounds tone-deaf to the realities of the current crisis for families. If the priority was on educating students, they would be cheering for solutions, not posting threats about learning pods widening the divide between “have and have nots” (which only underscores why schools should be opening their doors).
These old-school tactics have long been apparent. Anything that threatens the power of the teachers’ unions threatens their existence. They are enemies of expanding educational choice because they hold monopoly power over government-run schools. They attack educational scholarship programs, even ones that give low-income parents the chance to send their kids to a higher-performing school because competition would cut into their job security.
Based on voter attitudes, the NEA and AFT might be losing their grip. Their response to the current pandemic could be exposing this fear.
Black and Latino parents support the concept of school vouchers because all parents hope to give their kids the best shot at academic success. A poll commissioned by the American Federation of Children shows the continuing strong trend that “a broad and deep coalition of voters back school choice.” Sixty -nine percent, including 82 percent of Latinos and 68 percent of blacks, supported giving “parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs.”
For educators more interested in power than their profession, being separated from students by a computer screen instead of supervising them in person might be an added incentive to keep remote learning going as long as possible – all the more reason why the collective power of the teachers’ unions and the monopoly of government-run education should be reimagined while disruption is the norm. It’s time to overrule the old-world order in favor of an excellence-based, pandemic-flexible, family-friendly, 21st-century education system.
Doreen Denny is Vice President of Government Relations, Concerned Women for America