Multiple research reports show that teachers’ unions, including the NJEA, put the interests of their members over the interests of the kids by pushing to keep schools closed during the pandemic
It is widely recognized that school closures harmed kids, both in terms of substantial learning loss – especially in minority communities – and in emotional and mental well-being. Now multiple, credible studies have concluded that teachers’ unions were the driving force behind keeping schools closed, including the NJEA in New Jersey.
Last week, Sunlight blogged about a Harvard Business School study that found that school closures were determined by the strength of the teachers’ union rather than any COVID-related factors. As the study said:
“If you want to know why your children are in Zoom school, look at your local teachers’ union. The more power it enjoys, the more likely it is that your kids will be in Zoom school, regardless of vaccination rates, infection rates, or emergency-room capacity.”
Now three other reports have reached similar conclusions.
1. A recent NPR report found that “School closures lasted longer in the United States than in most high-income countries, and much longer in blue jurisdictions than in red ones.” NPR cited to a study by Burbio, which created an index for measuring in-person learning in each state. The bottom ten states for in-person learning – that is, the states with the most school closures – were ALL blue states. In fact, in nine of the ten, Democrats controlled all three branches of government (Maryland has a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature). Here are Burbio’s rankings:
|45. New Mexico|
|41. New Jersey|
California, Oregon, Maryland, Washington, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey are all known to have powerful teachers’ unions. Teachers’ unions in Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia all played major roles in keeping schools closed. The correlation between blue states, strong teachers’ unions and school closures is plain to see in the Burbio rankings, which is consistent with the Harvard study’s findings.
2. Defense of Freedom Institute study looked at seven large school districts across the US – including both Clark County, Nevada and Fairfax County, Virginia. Their conclusion:
“In no instance did teacher unions advocate for schools to reopen with in-person classroom instruction. On the contrary, they were classroom instruction’s primary opponents during the pandemic.”
3. The DFI study cited research from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University that found that “larger school districts where unions are undoubtedly stronger on average are far more likely to heed the preferences of unions to keep in-person schooling closed and rely on fully remote (online) models of teaching and learning.”
Here in New Jersey, as captured by New York Magazine, there was a strong perception that Democratic Governor Phil Murphy was unwilling to cross the NJEA, one of his biggest political supporters, and that New Jersey’s extensive school closures reflected the NJEA’s influence over Murphy. In the case of Montclair, NJEA President/Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller sided with his union and schools remained closed for 13 months.
The NPR report sums up the situation well: teachers’ unions are being seen “… as the main factor that kept schools operating remotely in blue states.”
Sunlight recognizes that the teachers’ unions may well have been reflecting the preferences of their members, but that is the point: in pushing for schools to remained closed, teachers’ unions placed the interests of their members over the interest of the kids. And the kids have suffered as a result.
Hopefully New Jersey citizens are becoming more aware of this reality.