Teachers’ union opposes popular micro-schools as they threaten union’s control

As schools stay remote, thousands of students across the country have made school enrollment changes this year that have dramatically changed the education landscape. Families unsatisfied with their brick and mortar school’s distance learning plan have turned to learning pods, pandemic micro-schools, and homeschooling, to name a few.

But despite these learning environments offering students a new opportunity, not everyone is happy such alternatives are on the rise.

According to Elliot Kaufman with The Wall Street Journal, the National Education Association (the national teachers’ union) “seeks to squash” popular pandemic micro-schools because the union “believes that such cohort-style learning arrangements should be organized, implemented, and monitored under the authority of state and district education agencies.” AKA, the union will support alternatives, but only ones that keep the money in the education system where it retains control, Kaufman adds.

As I wrote here, micro-schools consist of a small group of students, often around a dozen or so, who come together to learn typically at a residence of a participating family. (Think one-room schoolhouse meets blended learning and homeschooling meets private schooling.) Prenda, a micro-school provider based in Arizona, helps interested parents access micro-schools and is bearing the brunt of the teachers’ union opposition, according to this NEA report obtained by Kaufman.

The NEA opposition report cites an expert who thinks microschools can “address some of the structural limitations of homeschooling,” such as parents’ work obligations, and—this is Prenda’s innovation—take advantage of school-choice programs to “alleviate some equity issues” posed by the cost of hiring your own teachers. The combination could make home education feasible for millions more families. (The NEA didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.)

In a separate document, the teachers’ union suggests that the “proliferation of pandemic pods, micro-schools, and home education will widen this [opportunity] gap and worsen school segregation as well-resourced families will disproportionately benefit.” (You mean the opportunity gap that the top-down education system, which the union largely influences, hasn’t budged over the numerous years it has been a problem?)

But Prenda has eliminated tuition so that micro-schools are accessible to low-income families, Kaufman points out. NEA’s report just fails to address that.

Maybe the NEA should focus more on why parents are choosing these alternatives. And if the union is concerned about equal access, it needs to quit opposing things such as education savings accounts and tax-credit scholarships that remove education financial barriers so families of color and low-income families can access the learning environment they want for their children. That would be a decision that is about the kids.