California Cancels School – Puts Teachers’ Union Interests Over Those of Children and Families

On July 8, the California Teachers Association (CTA), the most powerful public-sector union in the Golden State, issued a statement asserting that, due to coronavirus concerns, state schools should not open this fall. The following day, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) released a 17-page “research paper” in which concerns about coronavirus were secondary to sweeping political demands — including Medicare for All, guaranteed housing, a wealth tax, a millionaire’s tax, defunding the police, financial support for illegal immigrants, and a moratorium on charter schools. The UTLA ended its manifesto by asserting, without evidence, “the only people guaranteed to benefit from the premature physical reopening of schools amidst a rapidly accelerating pandemic are billionaires and the politicians they’ve purchased.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District fell into line on July 13, announcing that students will not return to the classroom in the fall because of the virus. The circle was completed on July 17, when Governor Gavin Newsom shut down in-person education in 33 of the Golden State’s 58 most densely populated counties, which account for over 80 percent of the state’s school-age population. But in a confusing twist — the details buried in a press-release footnote — individual counties can apply for a waiver for elementary school students, exempting them from the shutdown.

The notice explains that “a waiver may only be granted if one is requested by the superintendent (or equivalent for charter or private schools), in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations. Local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH (California Department of Public Health) when considering a waiver request.” The process for getting permission to open grade schools is thus onerous and opaque. As EdSource’s John Fensterwald points out, thestate “does not elaborate on which conditions must be met before a county health officer could allow in-person instruction.”

While California is canceling school for millions of kids in the name of science-based public health, many child-health experts are urging schools to reopen with in-person classes this fall. The venerable American Academy of Pediatrics, having weighed the pros and cons, maintains that schools should reopen for in-person learning for children’s overall well-being. The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year “should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.” A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reports similar conclusions.

Opposing the shutdown, the Center for American Liberty will sue the state on the grounds that its constitution promises children a basic education and that online learning is insufficient to this guarantee. Harmeet Dhillon, the group’s head, argues that Governor Newsom has gone too far. “This issue affects not just the kids,” she says, “but their parents, and their parents who have jobs, and all the workplaces that are impacted. This is actually a catastrophe for California, and we are intending to challenge it legally.”

The best way out of this mess: fund students, not the education bureaucracy. If a school district or the state decides not to hold classes, parents should be able to use education dollars to pay for their child’s education elsewhere. As Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the Reason Foundation, wrote recently, “If a Walmart doesn’t reopen, families can take their food stamps elsewhere. If a school doesn’t reopen, families should similarly be able to take their education dollars elsewhere.”

Though private and religious schools are included under Newsom’s shutdown order, direct funding of students in the form of vouchers would still be a blessing for many families, who could use the money to help defray the costs of educating their kids via a homeschool co-op, for example. After Newsom’s announcement to shutter schools, California assemblyman Kevin Kiley stated, “today’s decision elevates the appearance of safety over actual student safety. A growing body of evidence suggests school closures do little to flatten the epidemic curve, while an abundance of evidence shows they are a calamity for kids.” Kiley added: “By giving himself political cover, Governor Newsom has exposed millions of kids to untold trauma and loss. The impacts of school closures will be devastating for working parents, academic equity, and mental health.”

For too long, the interests of schoolchildren and their parents have taken a backseat to those of education bureaucrats, teachers’ unions, and politicians. The situation is long overdue for a radical change.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.


  1. My preference is that each student is allotted a voucher equivalent to what is now being spent on education so that the parents can have them educated where they see fit —— including private and Christian schools. For too many years our children have been forced into a system that is overrun with liberal thought —– anti-Christian, Marxist thought —— that twists history and makes the USA out to be one of the most evil countries in the world when, although not perfect, we are one of the most moral and free countries in history. Our military strength is the only thing keeping the most evil forces the world has ever seen in check.

  2. James Rogers says

    There are two issues here – (1) how CA public servants are compensated, and (2) the true nature of the teachers’ union demands. The federal government reformed civil service through the Civiil Service Reform Act of 1976. This law applied only to federal civil servants; it did not apply to state civil servants, a.k.a. public servants. The Act allowed federal civil servants to organize and address their work environment but could not strike for salary and benefit changes since they were serving the public – paid with tax dollars – not a private entity. Any federal employee strike would necessarily harm America at large (e.g., the PATCO strike during the Reagan administration). That is, federal employees could not strike and stop work to pressure the federal government to raise wages or increase benefits. The federal government/Civil Service Commission determines what the government will offer. If the federal civil servant does not like the salary/benefit package, he/she can seek employment elsewhere. This was not universally extended to states who control their public servants under the 10th Amendment, I believe. Although, I do believe that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made these same changes in his state a few years ago and it greatly benefited the state and their civil servants. All states need to adapt the Federal Civil Service Reform Act of 1976 so that civil servant labor unions cannot coerce legislators to keep increasing their wages and benefits. Had CA done that in 1976, the state would not have a long term debt between $1 TRILLION and $2 TRILLION today which is dominated by the unfunded civil service retiree benefits!!

    Regarding the (2) teachers’ union demands, I can only say that they read just like the Communist Manifesto or the 1936 Russian constitution which formed the former Soviet Union. NONE of these demands have any place in America today nor are they relevant to public education in any way, shape or form. This is a perfect example of why the state public servant regulations need to be realigned to match the federal Civil Service Reform Act of 1976. The state also has to address how they are going to pay down the TRILLION PLUS DOLLAR obligation to their retirees WITHOUT overtly/covertly increasing taxes on citizens today and/or our children and grandchildren tomorrow; WITHOUT driving businesses out of the state; and WITHOUT collapsing the state infrastructure and services.

  3. Sounds like the unions had a little back room talk with Newsome and other politicians they own!
    If governor I would at this point in time fire ever teacher on the government payroll, without any debate. This is the perfect time to move in this direction.
    Then, I would decertify, make these unions, which are unethical for public service, illegal and cancel all agreements, without any debate.
    Following that the curriculum would be corrected and then teachers would be interviewed for character first with the ability to teach before they can be hired.
    Also, current retirement/benefit packages would be reassessed and adjusted to be in line with an honest compensation and the current state debt.
    Pay/salary of new hires would be based on character, ability, dedication, and loyalty to the teaching career secondly and the student first.
    No more tenure. No more “union” demands. No more union political donation to purchase politicians.
    Only teachers, paid fairly, who want to teach and have the ability.
    I’m tired of our failing schools, an education that has spawned this satanic antifa and other spoiled brats. It is time to throw off the evil and start over.

  4. 20% of one local school district are sticking with home schooling and/or charter and private schools. Best thing ever for kids in this state – get out of public K-12 and get out now.

  5. State pays approx $15,000 per student. Give that money to the parents. Put 10 kids together in the same class, hire a $100K teacher your like for a nine month year and spend the other $50K on classroom enrichments – all in your family rec room.

    Compare that to 30 kids at $15,000 each in unruly government schools, who can’t even read or write for a half million dollars in your tax money. What choice would you make?

  6. Teacher Unions cancel schools while still drawing TAX FUNDED FULL PAY. As largest Campaign Contributors November Prop 15 to wipe out everybody else’s job!

    Struggling Business Close
    Independent Stores
    Hair Salons
    Spent Money Covid Cleaning
    Shutdown Again Then Socked

    If Prop 15 Passes Your Home TAX Next Spring
    Business Ruin = No Voice Homeowners

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