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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

As more teacher unions push for distance schooling, parents worry. So do Democrats.

Few US cities have Labor politics like Chicago, where the nation’s third-largest school system closed this week after teachers union members refused to work in person, arguing that amid the Omicron boom The classes were unsafe.

But in many other places, the weak labor peace that allowed most schools to operate normally is at risk of collapsing this year.

Although job threats have not yet been issued, unions are back at the negotiating table, pushing for a return to distance learning in some cases. They often cite a shortage of staff due to illness, and a lack of rapid tests and medical-grade masks. Some teachers have staged ill boycotts, in rear-guard action.

In Milwaukee, schools are remote until January 18, due to staffing issues. But teachers union president Amy Mizialco doubts the situation will improve significantly. And there are concerns that the school board will oppose the expansion of online classes.

“I hope it will be a fight,” Ms Mizialco said.

He credited the district for delaying at least in-person schooling to start the year, but criticized Democratic officials for putting unrealistic pressure on teachers and schools.

“I think Joe Biden and Miguel Cardona and the newly elected Mayor of New York City and Lori Lightfoot – they can all announce that schools will remain open,” Ms Mizialco said, referring to the US Secretary of Education and the Mayor of Chicago. “But unless they have hundreds of thousands of people to step in for sick teachers in this uncontrolled boom, they won’t.”

For many parents and teachers, the pandemic has become a slog of concern over the risk of infection, the woes of childcare, school-through-a-screen fatigue and most of all, chronic instability.

And for Democrats, the resurgence of tensions over distance schooling is a distinctly unwanted development.

Because they have close ties with unions, Democrats are concerned that additional closures like those in Chicago could lead to a possible repeat of the party’s recent defeat in the Virginia governor’s race. Polls showed that school disruption was a significant issue for swing voters who broke with Republicans—particularly suburban white women.

“It’s a big deal in most states polling we do,” said Brian Stryker, a partner at polling firm ALG Research, whose work in Virginia indicates that school closures are hurting Democrats.

“Anyone who thinks this is a political problem that stops at the Chicago city line is kidding,” said Stryker, whose firm voted for President Biden’s 2020 campaign. “It’s going to resonate across the country, across Illinois.”

More than a million out of the country’s 50 million public school students The first week of January was affected by bandhs across the district, many of which were suddenly announced and a wave of dismay among parents.

“Kids aren’t the ones who are seriously ill and are older, but we do know kids suffer from distance learning,” said Dan Kirk, whose son attends Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, the district’s The beach was closed. deadlock this week.

Many non-federal charter-school networks and districts temporarily transitioned to distance learning after the holidays. But as has been true during the pandemic, most temporary districtwide closures — including those in Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee — are taking place in liberal-leaning areas with powerful unions and a more cautious approach to the coronavirus.

The demands of the unions are the same as they have been for almost two years, despite everything having changed. There are now vaccines and there is reassuring knowledge that transmission of the virus has been limited in school. The Omicron variant, while highly contagious, causes less severe disease than previous iterations of COVID-19.

Most district leaders and many teachers say it is imperative that schools remain open. They cite a large body of research showing that closure harms children academically and emotionally, and widens income and racial inequalities.

But some local union officials are wary of packed classes. In Newark, schools started 2022 with an unexpected stretch of distance learning, which was due to end on January 18. Newark Teachers Association president John Abigon said he was hopeful about a return to buildings, but he was unsure whether every school could operate safely. Student vaccination is far from universal, and most parents have not consented to having their children take routine virus tests.

Mr Abigail said if tests remain scarce, he could ask for distance learning in specialized schools with low vaccination rates and high case numbers. He agreed that online education is a burden for working parents, but argued that teachers should not be sacrificed for the betterment of the economy.

“I would see an entire city of Newark unemployed before I let a teacher’s colleague die needlessly,” he said.

In Los Angeles, the district has worked closely with the union to keep classes open after the longest pandemic shutdown in the country over the past school year. The vaccination rate for students 12 and older is nearly 90 percent, with a student vaccine mandate set to kick in this fall. All students and staff are tested for the virus weekly.

Still, Cecilie Myrt-Cruz, the president of the local union, won’t rule out pushing for a districtwide return to distance learning in the coming weeks. “You know, I want to be honest – I don’t know,” she said.

Tensions are not limited to the moderate states. In Kentucky, teacher unions and at least one large school district have said they need the flexibility to move away amid rising infection rates.

But the Republican-controlled state legislature has given no more than 10 days nationwide for such a directive, and unions there worry it may be insufficient. Jenny Ward Bolander, leader of a statewide union, said teachers may have to lay off their jobs.

“There is growing frustration among teachers,” said Ms. Ward Bolander. “I hate to say we’ll run out at that point, but it’s absolutely possible.”

National teachers’ unions continue to call for classes to remain open, but local allies hold the most power in negotiations over whether individual districts will close schools.

And over the past decade, some local people, including those in Los Angeles and Chicago, have been taken over by active leaders whose tactics may be more aggressive than those of national leaders, such as those of the American Federation of Teachers. Randy Weingarten and Becky Pringle of National Education. Association, both close allies of President Biden.

Complicating matters, some local unions face internal pressure from their own members. In the Bay Area, separate groups of teachers in both Oakland and San Francisco have planned sick boycotts, and called for N95 masks, more virus testing and other safety measures.

Rory Abernathy, a middle-school teacher in San Francisco, organized a sick show there on Thursday. She said Chicago’s action had prompted some teachers to ask, “Why isn’t our union doing this?”

In Chicago and San Francisco, working-class parents of color send their children to public schools, and they have often supported strict safety measures during the pandemic, including periods of distance learning. And in New York, the nation’s largest school district, schools are brimming with increased virus testing, with limited dissent from teachers.

But politics gets more complicated in the suburbs, where union leaders can find themselves in pain with public officials. Preserve schooling individually.

In Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest district, the superintendent has plans to convert individual schools to distance learning in the event of many absent teachers.

Kimberly Adams, President The local education association said that their union could take strong steps. And she said districts should plan for virus escalation by distributing tools for a potential short burst of online schooling.

But Dan Helmer, a Democratic state representative whose swing district includes part of Fairfax County, said there was little support among his constituents for a return to online education.

Deb Andraka, a Democratic state representative in Wisconsin whose district is located north of Milwaukee, where schools were remote last week, said Republicans have targeted her seat and expects schools to be a line of attack.

“Everyone knows that schools want to stay open,” she said. “But there’s a lot of talk about how teachers’ unions don’t want schools to remain open.”

Jim Hobart, partner at Public Opinion Strategies, a polling firm that counts several Republican senators and governors as clients, said the school closure issue created two advantages for GOP candidates. It has helped narrow their margins among a demographic with which they have traditionally struggled – white women in their mid-20s and mid-50s – and it has generally led to claims of Democrats’ competence. has reduced.

“A lot of people – Mayor Lightfoot in Chicago – have told Biden that schools should be open,” Mr. Hobart said. “If they are not able to stop schools from closing, it shows a weakness on their part.”

Labor officials say many of their critics are acting in bad faith, exploiting parental frustrations related to the pandemic to advance long-standing political goals, such as discrediting unions and private-school Extend voucher.

So far, neither the critiques nor the broader pandemic challenges have significantly hampered the public position of unions, even according to polls conducted by. Researchers cast doubt on teacher unions.

And if it turns out that Democratic candidates pay a political price for the union’s assertiveness, local labor officials don’t consider it among their top concerns.

“If distance learning periods hurt the Democratic Party this winter, that’s a question for counselors and brain trusts,” said Newark union president Mr. Abigon. There’s no question in my mind.”

holy sacon Contributed reporting from San Francisco.

World Nation News Desk
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