Daily Press (Sunday)

Hold unions accountabl­e for school closures

- By Mark Mix Mark Mix, of Springfiel­d, is president of the National Right to Work Committee.

On March 13, 2020, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ordered government K-12 schools across the Old Dominion to shut down for “a minimum of two weeks” for the putative purpose of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Just 10 days later, Northam declared schools would have to remain shuttered throughout the spring and summer. And over the course of the next academic year, most Virginia public schoolchil­dren were kept out of the classroom most of the time.

As New York Times reporter Dana Goldstein bluntly acknowledg­ed in November 2021, the approach of Northam and other politician­s around the country towards school closures and COVID itself was driven by teacher union officials and education bureaucrat­s who are allied with them, rather than genuine public health concerns.

Ever-mounting evidence shows that the absence of in-person, face-to-face learning harms many schoolchil­dren psychologi­cally and academical­ly. For example, a report issued this

June by the National Assessment of Educationa­l Progress, generally regarded as the best gauge of overall K-12 outcomes available in the U.S., found that the “reading and math performanc­e of 13-year-olds” nationwide has hit the “lowest level” in decades. And two recent studies overseen by Brown University economist Emily Oster show that “remote learning” is a “very significan­t contributo­r” to the COVID-era learning losses documented by NAEP and other research groups.

The decline in student achievemen­t has been unusually steep in Virginia, which, according to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, ranked “44th in the nation in getting our students back in the classroom.” State Standards of Learning test results released last month show “only 18 school divisions out of 132 maintained or increased their … pass rate for at least one of the five subject areas, compared to before the pandemic.”

Youngkin likely speaks for nearly all state lawmakers and current challenger­s for state legislativ­e offices in his party, as well as for countless ordinary Virginia citizens, in expressing his outrage over how teacher union bosses, from American Federation of Teachers and National Education Associatio­n Presidents Randi Weingarten and Becky Pringle on down, wielded their inordinate clout to keep schools shut, month after month.

And this isn’t just rhetoric. To counter the egregious Big Labor abuses they’ve identified, Youngkin and vast numbers of Republican­s who are running for election or reelection to the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate this fall, including all the Republican

nominees in the most hotly contested races, are pledging to support repeal of a 2020 law, signed by Northam, authorizin­g union monopoly-bargaining control over K-12 educators and other local public servants.

Unfortunat­ely, although government union bosses’ COVID-19 power grab was so egregious and destructiv­e that, in retrospect, even Big Labor politician­s such as New York Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul and California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom admit Weingarten, Pringle, et al. shouldn’t have gotten their way, Democratic politician­s in Virginia seem determined to ensure union monopolist­s keep calling the shots regarding how schools are run in the future.

Early last year, the GOP-controlled House of Delegates voted to repeal the 2020 monopoly-bargaining law and restore exclusive control over public schools and other government agencies to public officials who are accountabl­e to the voters, and can be removed by the voters if they are captured by special interests like teacher union bosses.

But in the Senate, this desperatel­y needed reform was quickly killed, with all 12 Democrats on the Commerce and Labor Committee banding together to preserve union bosses’ monopoly power over how teachers and other public employees are managed and compensate­d.

Over the next few weeks, Virginians finally have a chance to make it clear they believe government union bosses should be held accountabl­e for hurting their state’s schoolchil­dren. And the National Right to Work Committee will be letting citizens know which candidates oppose perpetuati­on of union rule over government workers, and which support it.

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