The public school system in America is in crisis — the worst crisis since the forced bussing and integration issues of the 1970s.
Simply put, parents and students have lost faith in the school system to educate. They doubt whether the schools have the best interests of their students at heart. This poisonous doubt is having a tangible effect on enrollment. Despite the fact that public education is free, parents are sending their children to private schools with more reliable, more predictable policies.
Enrollment in public schools nationwide declined by 3 percent last year. But it was the numbers for kindergarten enrollment that should chill the blood of teachers’ unions and school district officials. Kindergarten enrollment tanked by 13 percent last year, and it’s only expected to get worse this year.
One school district in Brooklyn, New York, has seen its rosters fall from 345 students in 2018–19 to a projected 225 this September, with kindergarten enrollment collapsing from 76 to 37. Because school funding is pegged to enrollment, that school stands to lose a sizable chunk of its funding — funds to pay teachers and other support staff.
And yes, it’s not the pandemic itself that’s causing the collapse in enrollment. It’s the policies put in place to assuage the desires of teachers.
A joint Stanford Graduate School of Education/New York Times study of 70,000 public schools in 33 states three weeks ago showed that those offering remote-only learning at the beginning of 2020–21 experienced a 3.7 percent decline, while those with in-person schooling went down 2.6 percent. “In other words,” Stanford education professor Thomas S. Dee told the university’s publicity department, “going remote-only actually increased the enrollment decline by about 40 percent.”
The problem is the super-entitlement of teachers’ unions and how firmly they control the public school system in America.
At last for now.
All of which would be another reason to view 2020–21 to be the apex of teachers union power, to be followed by inexorable descent. They got their work-at-home carveouts, their school closures, their preferred party running the federal government, their vaccine fast-tracking, their fingerprints all over the “science,” and their hundreds of billions in federal largesse. And as a result of all that influence, they created a product that’s literally repellant to millions of parents, even at the cost of free. Their ranks will almost certainly thin.
It will be extremely difficult to dislodge the teachers’ unions from their perch at the top of the food chain. Their political power is awesome, given the $30 million they pour into the war chests of Democratic state politicians. They also hold the fate of big-city mayors in the palms of their hands as they can easily blackmail even the most powerful mayor by threatening a walkout. Voters become enraged when their lives are turned upside down because they can’t send their kids to school so they can work.
But all that might fall by the wayside if parents continue to vote with their feet and remove their kids from public schools. Many kids will be trapped because of their family financial circumstances. But we know that parents will go to great lengths and make any sacrifice to see that their child gets the best possible chance to succeed in life.
The teachers’ unions won’t go quietly. But we may have seen the apex of their power, as the article suggests.