News & Politics

LA Teachers Union Cries 'Structural Racism' Over School Reopening Plan

Boy in classroom. Image credit Ernesto Eslava, Pixabay

The data is in: school reopenings do not significantly increase the spread of COVID-19. Yet some teachers’ unions continue to fight to keep schools closed, even as kids suffer from losing an entire year in the classroom. In fact, the teachers’ union in the second-largest school district in America actually played the race card — or, more accurately, the Marxist critical race theory card — to condemn a toothless reopening plan as in league with “structural racism.”

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) and other Democratic lawmakers revealed their compromise school-reopening proposal. Newsom and other Democrats spent months working to strike a deal, and the reopening plan does not force schools in more dangerous COVID-19 zones to reopen, it merely incentivizes reopening using state grants.

Yet the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) loudly condemned the plan, calling it “a recipe for propagating structural racism,” Politico reported.

“We are being unfairly targeted by people who are not experiencing this disease in the same ways as students and families are in our communities,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said at a press conference on Monday. “If this was a rich person’s disease, we would’ve seen a very different response. We would not have the high rates of infections and deaths.”

“Now educators are asked instead to sacrifice ourselves, the safety of our students and the safety of our schools,” Myart-Cruz complained.

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Most of California’s schools have been closed for an entire year now, as the state’s powerful unions work to stall reopening. Even though the California Teachers Association praised parts of the plan on Monday, it argued that local unions still have negotiating rights.

Newsom’s toothless reopening plan does not even require schools to reopen, according to Politico. Instead, it offers $2 billion in financial incentives for schools that open before April 1. The proposal offers grants to schools that open transitional kindergarten through second grade by the end of March, as well as those that open classes for at-risk students in all grades. That includes districts in counties that remain in the state’s most dangerous purple tier, in which teachers’ unions have said conditions are too unsafe for reopening.

The plan does not apply pressure on reopening school for older grades until counties hit the red tier. At that point, schools must open all elementary grades to qualify for grant funding, plus at least one grade in middle and high school. If schools do not open by the end of March, they will start to lose a percentage of money for each day they remain closed starting April 1.

To be frank, this deal is extraordinarily lenient on local school districts, probably due to the outside impact of teachers’ unions. School districts across the country should be giving taxpayers a refund after months of withholding the benefit of schooling from children in need.

Newsom has pushed to get teachers vaccinated and case rates across the state are decreasing. More and more districts are moving up their timelines to reopen schools. Yet UTLA refuses to budge, crying racism.

“The fact is that the plan does not supersede our legal right to bargain working conditions with LAUSD and our continued determination to do so,” Myart-Cruz argued. She said that Newsom and state lawmakers can “increase the political pressure, but they cannot change the science.”

Myart-Cruz accused white, wealthy parents of increasing that political pressure and “driving the push behind a rushed return.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), black non-Hispanic Americans have 1.1 times as many COVID-19 cases as whites, 2.9 times as many hospitalizations, and 1.9 times as many deaths. Hispanic or Latino Americans have 1.3 times as many cases, 3.2 times as many hospitalizations, and 2.3 times as many deaths as white non-Hispanic Americans. However, white people still make up the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths (61.3 percent to 18.2 percent Hispanic or Latino and $14.7 percent black non-Hispanic).

In California, the death rates mostly track with the population. White people (36 percent of the population) experienced 32 percent of the deaths, while black people (5 percent of the population) experienced 6 percent of the deaths, Hispanic people (40 percent of the population) experienced 46 percent of the deaths, and Asian people (15 percent of the population) experienced 12 percent of the deaths.

While COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted black and Hispanic Americans, it hasn’t exactly spared whites or Asians. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the conspiracy theory that parents want to open schools in order to target racial minorities.

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In fact, school closures have taken a serious toll on the emotional state of America’s children, whatever their race. Studies have found that depression symptoms among children have “increased substantially” during COVID-19 lockdowns. From March 2020 through October 2020, the share of mental health-related hospital emergency department visits rose 24 percent for kids ages 5 to 11 and 31 percent among adolescents ages 12 to 17, when compared to 2019, the CDC reported.

Reopening schools is about helping children, not exposing communities to infection. In fact, the CDC has reported that there is “scant” transmission in classrooms.

The teachers’ unions’ steadfast opposition to reopening has far more to do with power.

In fact, UTLA and teachers unions in Sacramento and Oakland went on strike in 2019 over working conditions before the pandemic. As Politico noted, UTLA’s position is likely to sway union members elsewhere. Los Angeles Unified is the second-largest school district in the nation with about 600,000 students. It is by far the largest district in the state, comprising roughly 10 percent of California’s public schoolchildren.

California’s largest teachers union is holding ten percent of the state’s public school kids hostage in exchange for what, exactly? Perhaps more money, more benefits, more peace of mind? If teachers’ unions like UTLA wish to convince Americans that public school is as important as they have preached for decades, why are they fighting tooth-and-nail against a toothless reopening plan when keeping schools closed will wreak havoc on the very children they claim to serve?

While Marxist critical race theory teaches that American society is bedeviled with hidden “structural racism” that requires brainwashing or revolutionary action to erase, and while this noxious ideology is spreading further in American society, parents are unlikely to fall for the unions crying “structural racism.”

When a member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board compared school reopenings to slavery, her fellow board members snickered.

“I am Hispanic… I am Hispanic and I have four adopted children. We look like the U.N.,” Minerva Martinez Scott, a Hispanic board member, responded to the CRT proponent. “And my child has been affected by not being in school. My kid is in a facility because he had a hard time not being in school.”

At some point, Gavin Newsom is going to have to put his foot down and force teachers to do their jobs. If he doesn’t, the people of California will recall him and replace him with someone who will. That effort is already underway.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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