Parents less likely to say teachers’ unions have ‘positive impact’ on education

Under Governor Walz’s most recent executive order, elementary schools in Minnesota may choose to offer in-person or hybrid learning beginning January 18 as long as mitigation strategies are in place and students are brought back into school buildings on a rolling start process.

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers’ union, is sticking to its messaging that children should be back in the classroom “only when it’s safe.” Other teachers’ unions across the country also continue to push back against school reopenings in the name of safety concerns, despite ever-growing research that schools are not super-spreaders and that responsible reopening is possible.

This “overabundance of both caution and political muscle,” writes Matt Welch with The Reason Foundation, is “driving parents away from the systems” and making “America a global outlier in keeping schools shut.” According to infectious disease specialist Otto Helve with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, “It is still difficult for me to understand why schools are closed in the United States. Schools are not driving the epidemic.”

And while “school closures are a product of many factors,” comments Frederick Hess with the American Enterprise Institute, “they are also very much a product of union intransigence.” With Biden’s administration set to take over in a couple of weeks, union resistance to school reopening will become “complicated,” continues Hess.

Under a President Biden, reopening schools and helping the nation “build back better” will no longer be a nefarious Trumpian stratagem—it’ll be a patriotic cause. Unions are likely to face significant pressure from their allies to help that cause. Of course, after nine months of foot-dragging, unions have stoked outsized fears among even younger school staff while nurturing the sense that educators shouldn’t be expected to return to school until they choose to. We’ll see how this plays out.

The Center’s fall 2020 Thinking Minnesota Poll found that one in four parents “have looked at alternative schools to provide an in-person learning experience” for their children. Parents’ view of teachers’ unions also appears to be in decline. Only 36 percent said that they see a “positive impact” of unions on the overall quality of their children’s education.