States and districts may not be ready to spend $122B in Rescue Plan funds, but the unions are

By: | May 20, 2021

We are still a long way from getting all of America’s schoolchildren back into classrooms five days a week, but it’s clear that the tide has turned in favor of reopening. Vaccines have proven even more effective than we hoped, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended lifting of many restrictions, and even Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, gave her approval of school reopenings, albeit not until the fall.

We were unprepared for abrupt school closures in March 2020, and we were unprepared for the long and difficult battle to get them reopened. It seems to me we are again unprepared for what comes next.

The teachers unions, however, are prepared.

When the pandemic struck, they wasted no time developing collective bargaining strategies for the conduct of online instruction. The National Education Association issued guidelines on March 11, 2020 — just a couple of weeks after the very first shutdowns. When the conversation shifted to reopening schools, AFT produced “A Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities” in April 2020. The following month, the California Teachers Association sent its local affiliates a bargaining advisory, in which it declared, “Now is the time to secure language improvements that we have wanted for some time.”

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