At Union Bosses’ Insistence, Teachers Are Not to Be ‘Evaluated or Disciplined With Respect to Quality of Work’

Forced-Unionism Abuses Exposed – The facts Big Labor bosses would rather you didn’t hear about.

“[C]ompulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand . . . .”

— U.S.Sen. John McClellan (D-Ark.)

Many parents of school-aged children in Newton, Mass., like David Goldstone, are angry this summer.  And they have good reason to be.

This March 15, Bay State Gov. Charlie Baker ordered schools across Massachusetts to close as part of his plan to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The religious private school attended by Goldstone’s youngest daughter and Newton South, the public high school attended by his two other daughters, both promptly shut down. 

But apart from that commonality, the education experiences of his seventh grader and his high schoolers over the rest of the academic year were completely different.

As Boston-based writer E.B. Solomont recently explained in an article for Education Next, the daughter enrolled in the union-free religious school “quickly fell into a new routine of online learning” between 8:30 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon every day.  On the other hand, three weeks went by before students enrolled in the Big Labor-dominated Newton Public Schools (NPS) system even learned what the plan was for their online learning.

Finally, on April 2, two days after Goldstone and more than 900 other parents had sent a joint petition to NPS urging school officials to present a plan for distance learning, the parents learned that the School Committee and Newton Teachers Association (NTA) union had concocted one in secret.

Concerned parents such as Goldstone were flabbergasted by the fait accompli with which they were presented.  Here’s how Solomont summarized its key points:  

“Teachers are receiving their full salary while school is closed, yet they are not to be ‘evaluated or disciplined with respect to the quality of work’ during the closure, the contract states.  Under the April 2 distance learning plan, elementary school students received two 15-minute ‘live’ classes each week.  High schoolers had 3.5 hours of work daily, including 20 minutes of live instruction each week.  (The amount was increased to 30 minutes in mid-May.)  Middle schoolers had two 30-minute check-ins a week.”

The minimal learning time and lack of graded assignments in the NPS system this spring are sadly typical of what happened in locked-down public school districts across the country whenever teacher union bosses got their way.

And in Massachusetts and more than 30 other states, public policy is effectively designed to ensure that bosses of the NTA and other unions affiliated with the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA) or the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT) get their way the vast majority of the time.

Under government-sector monopoly-bargaining laws in states like Massachusetts, district arrangements regarding how educators are compensated and managed are extraordinarily difficult to change without union bosses’ acquiescence.

And all too often, as the NPS/NTA deal forged early this year illustrates, the provisions for which Big Labor pushes the hardest benefit primarily the minority of educators who care little whether their students learn or not and serve mostly to undermine conscientious educators.

A frustrated Goldstone told Solomont that the union-label “distance-learning” regime imposed on NPS schoolchildren, their parents, and other taxpayers is a “complete and utter joke.”

Unfortunately, more unfunny shenanigans can be expected from officers of the NEA, the AFT, and their state and local subsidiaries during the 2020-21 academic year.

Despite already vast and rapidly growing scientific evidence showing that COVID-19 poses an extraordinarily small risk, compared to other communicable diseases such as the flu, to the life and health of K-12 school-aged children, as well as substantial and mounting evidence that school-aged children pose very little risk for transmission of COVID-19 to teachers and other school employees, relatively few school districts are expected to return to normal this fall.

Government union bosses are routinely insisting that distance learning, coupled with standards that all but eliminate accountability for teachers working online, continue to constitute most or even all of the curriculum in public schools.  In states with monopoly-bargaining laws, Big Labor’s demands will almost certainly be met.  If parents of schoolchildren in such jurisdictions have any other viable options for educating them, now is the time to consider them.