‘The Most Harmful Individual within the World Is Randi Weingarten’
A frequent knock on the A.F.T. is that it places lecturers earlier than college students, a framing neatly encapsulated by a quote attributed to the union’s former president Al Shanker: “When schoolchildren begin paying union dues, that’s after I’ll begin representing the pursuits of schoolchildren.” Shanker’s biographer, Richard Kahlenberg, discovered no document of Shanker’s ever saying this and doesn’t suppose he ever did, however that hasn’t stopped the union’s critics from citing it. Weingarten has a rebuttal: Good working circumstances for lecturers make good studying circumstances for college students. But Weingarten does in reality characterize lecturers, not college students. Often, reminiscent of on the subject of points like classroom measurement or faculty budgets, their pursuits align. Sometimes they don’t.
For a interval in the course of the pandemic, the 2 teams’ obvious pursuits diverged, and a collection of fault traces began opening throughout the nation, separating not solely Republicans from Democrats but additionally mother and father from lecturers, centrist Democrats from progressives and concrete Black mother and father from suburban white mother and father, and even dividing the lecturers’ union itself. These fault traces widened because the reopening debates merged into fights over how faculties ought to take care of the instructing of the nation’s racial historical past in addition to sexuality and gender id.
What turned more and more clear to me over the past a number of months, as I spoke to dozens of politicians, political consultants, union leaders, guardian activists and schooling students concerning the convulsions in American schooling, is that it’s not doable to separate schooling from politics, and that public faculties are extra susceptible than they’ve ever been. How did Randi Weingarten wind up on the middle of the 2024 Republican major? The solely option to reply that query is to re-examine America’s schooling wars and the competing political agendas which are driving them. “Oh, goodness, no! Not in any respect!” Pompeo answered after I requested if he was, maybe, being hyperbolic in his remarks about Weingarten. “It’s not nearly Ms. Weingarten, however she has been probably the most seen face of the destruction of American schooling.”
In the chaotic early months of the pandemic, lecturers had been celebrated as important employees, heroically persevering with to serve America’s kids from their houses, typically with restricted assets and insufficient expertise. But in the course of the summer season of 2020, issues began to shift. There was already early analysis displaying that college students had been struggling academically from distant studying. Schools throughout Europe had begun reopening with none main outbreaks, and lots of of America’s personal and parochial faculties had been planning to renew in-person studying firstly of the brand new faculty 12 months. Quite a lot of public-school mother and father needed their kids to be again within the classroom, too. But many lecturers appeared proof against the thought.
Because of the decentralized construction of America’s public-education system, which has some 14,000 completely different faculty districts, the federal authorities couldn’t order faculties to reopen for in-person studying, however in July 2020, President Trump threatened to withhold federal funds from people who didn’t. His schooling secretary, Betsy DeVos, echoed his sentiments, demanding that the nation’s faculties be “absolutely operational” by the autumn with out offering a particular plan for doing so.