Students were supposed to return to classes Aug. 17 in the Phoenix suburb of San Tan Valley, but the reopening was canceled when more than 100 teachers and staff members staged an unexpected sickout.
Schools Superintendent Gregory Wyman told reporters, “We have received an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students,” due to the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
Similar scenes have played out in public school districts across the nation in recent weeks, often with teachers unions loudly demanding unrelated political items such as defunding police, Medicare for All, and banning school choice programs.
While the teachers sit out or insist on virtual-only classes, millions of parents with children in the nation’s more than 13,000 public school systems are fuming.
As one frustrated father who requested anonymity told The Epoch Times on Aug. 17, “nearly every family we know is either struggling to make arrangements for their kids or has already decided to pull them out of public school for private or homeschool options.”
Even worse, he said, “to be clear about those ‘arrangements’ for the ones who have to give online public school a try, many of those parents are choosing between their jobs and childcare. They’re literally having to decide which of their two jobs has the better income, health care benefits, schedule flexibility, etc., and leaving the other.”
The father has three school-age children and lives in a prosperous middle-class suburban Virginia neighborhood.
Such comments don’t surprise Center for Education Reform (CER) President Jeanne Allen, who told The Epoch Times on Aug. 18 that the situation with the pandemic “has introduced many parents—some for the first time—to the deficiencies of the traditional education system, one that has long failed to accomplish its very purpose—educating our students well.”
What parents want, Allen said, “is that they be given the resources the system gets, to choose, develop or buy their own education for their kids this year. They’re creating their own learning communities, micro-schools, and applying for charter and private schools in unprecedented numbers.”
The problem, according to Allen, is that too many Republican leaders support school choice only tepidly, thus risking missing a huge political opportunity created by teacher union resistance to reopening schools.
“Other than the president [and] a few senators and governors, Republican policymakers are treating this issue like it’s polite dinner conversation rather than the significant fight for equity that it should be,” Allen said.
Republican and conservative strategists interviewed by The Epoch Times agreed with Allen.
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning, for example, said “GOP leaders are missing a layup by not aggressively pushing school choice tax reform right now.”
Similarly, Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform president and veteran conservative strategist, said “the establishment press is uninterested in hearing about this. They know it tears the Democratic Party in half. So, statements of sound policy are not enough.”
“Trump and the GOP should make dramatic moves that force the media to explain the difference between the two parties on education. The Democrats support the teachers union leadership. Republicans support parents, students, and competent teachers against the demands of the union bosses. That starts with full parental choice.”
Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams agreed, saying that “Republicans should be using this opportunity to talk about and take specific actions to enhance school choice and make sure that any federal money can be used for charter schools or other nontraditional forms of education. Ultimately, (to steal a line from others) the money should follow the student to ensure each student’s needs are met.”
If schools don’t open, he said, “some single parents may have to quit their jobs to stay at home because not everybody can work from home. It’s time to lessen the grip of unions.”
Brian Darling, founder of Liberty Government Affairs and former senior counsel to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), noted that his old boss recently introduced legislation requiring parental choice in deciding how federal education dollars can be spent.
“The Republican Party would be increasing the likelihood of winning more seats in the White House this fall if they were more vocal about school choice,” Darling told The Epoch Times, adding that “taxpayers should be empowered on how to direct money for the best education of their own children, not unions.”
The consequences for top GOP candidates not making school choice a vocal campaign priority could be especially severe, according to Club for Growth President David McIntosh, a former Indiana Republican congressman.
McIntosh said his group’s polling in states with GOP senators facing tough reelection battles shows that “candidates are already in precarious positions, and failure to act on parental choice could result in electoral disasters.”
“If those Republican senators vote to continue sending tax dollars to state and local government education bureaucrats but nothing to parents whose schools are closed to help them choose other options, polling suggests voter support could drop 25 percent.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc