Teachers’ union uses coronavirus to push agenda

According to the most recent data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, around three million students attended 7,000 charter schools across the country in 2016-17, accounting for roughly six percent of all public school students. But the way defenders of the status quo describe it, charter schools are 100 percent of the problems traditional public schools face.

Teachers’ unions, in particular, have been vocal about their opposition and have even resorted to using the COVID-19 outbreak crisis as a ploy to stop charter school growth, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Citing the coronavirus emergency, the L.A. teachers union on Thursday [March 26] called for a moratorium on new charter school approvals and a halt to new campus-sharing arrangements with charters.

United Teachers Los Angeles has long wanted to slow or stop the growth of these privately operated public schools, but cast its current opposition in terms of the ongoing health crisis of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl, in a letter sent to Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner on Thursday, said it would be unfair to approve new charter schools without an opportunity for board members to hear from community members. Currently members of the public are unable to gather and it could be difficult for them to participate in scheduled board meetings, which probably would take place by video- or audio-conferencing.

Also in the letter the union said it opposed any first-time agreements that would allow a charter to share space with a district-operated school. Charters have a right to space on district campuses under state law.

“Given the seriousness of this COVID-19 outbreak, the complexity of new public health standards to be implemented, and how quickly schools will have to adjust, there is simply not enough time for any new co-location or new charter approvals to be established in a healthy and safe way,” Caputo-Pearl said.

The California Charter Schools Association called the union’s priorities “shameful and offensive.”

“UTLA leadership needs to get its priorities straight during this unprecedented health crisis, focus on all students, and apologize to the kids and families they have continuously targeted,” said Luis Vizcaino, referring to charter school supporters. “We are better together, and we need leaders who unite, not divide, our community to meet this moment.”

The teachers’ union and charter school battle in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been going on for the past decade. So why now, during this challenging and unique time that we find ourselves in, is the union so focused on undermining the school choice of more than 156,000 students’ families?