Friday, June 18, 2021

We Parents Did All the Scrambling During This Pandemic, and Now Randi Weingarten Wants the Credit

 We do the heavy lifting. We support our children. One speech from a teacher union leader will not make us forget their role in this entire year of educators’ abandonment of American children. 

Yesterday, AFT President Randi Weingarten gave a very motivational speech encouraging the nation about school reopening and reimagining education. Motivation is good, gets the people hyped—but what happens when the motivation wanes and the reality of unmet promises sets in?  

Don’t hang around the water cooler! There’s anesthesia in the water.

Weingarten’s opening statement about the 3,000,000 mothers across the nation who lost income because of school closures was noble, but the lack of mention of the teachers’ unions role in that lost income gave me a sudden onset of indigestion. Her care and concern about moms losing their income and livelihoods are way overdue. A motivational speech won’t give them back what was lost.  

When we parents were suddenly schooling from home, it was the teachers’ union contracts, collective bargaining and negotiations that were the main factor in prohibiting us from having any meaningful dialogue about our students’ needs.

When we parents were suddenly schooling from home, it was the teachers’ union contracts, collective bargaining and negotiations that were the main factor in prohibiting us from having any meaningful dialogue about our students’ needs. I didn’t hear any mention of that.  

In fact, many teachers were admonished not to reach out to students and families, because these back-door deals and agreements were the priority. While Weingarten used phrases like “scrambling” and the “collective efforts of the education community” to transition into virtual learning to praise teachers, as a parent, I haven’t seen that much effort from “the education community” to meet students’ and families’ needs in this pandemic.  

The reality is, WE the Parents did all the scrambling, and now AFT wants to take all the credit.   

The reality is, WE the Parents did all the scrambling, and now AFT wants to take all the credit.   

Which “long hours spent troubleshooting IT problems” was Randi referring to? Surely not the hours, days, and months that millions of students lost of education because they had no device and lacked adequate connectivity. What about them?  

Then there was the chatter about racial justice and teacher diversity. If those were real priorities, they would have already been done. The pandemic is recent; the endemic, socially transmitted disease of racism is ages old. In fact, AFT has already tried the strategies Weingarten mentioned yesterday. In 2015, their racial equity task force produced a self-congratulatory report and in 2020, a resolution supporting Black lives and calling on schools to remove police officers. But when’s the deadline to make good on these promises? 

We’ve waited for centuries. How much longer will it take? 

I don’t trust an entity to reimagine the future of our children’s education when it has for so long been the stumbling block and gatekeeper preventing them from learning and thriving. 

In Weingarten’s speech, I heard some lofty recognition of the issues at hand for students, but no talk of testing and accountability and no solid plans moving forward. I don’t trust an entity to reimagine the future of our children’s education when it has for so long been the stumbling block and gatekeeper preventing them from learning and thriving. 

Similarly, I have reasonable, realistic concerns about supposed solutions for Black children and families coming from the imagination of people who have consistently shown and proved that our dignity does not matter to them. Teacher unionists like Weingarten like to throw around phrases like “success for all students” as a political sound bite. In reality, we know from experience and data that they have not delivered high, measurable outcomes for our children. History shows us that Black and brown children are always the least considered, and the pandemic has reinforced that pattern. 

If we want to see real and lasting progress and change, it will not come from the goodwill or desire of the establishment. It will continue to require that we—hardworking and dedicated parents, families, and community—remain steadfast and unrelenting in ensuring quality education for our children, while we continue to battle for learning justice! 

 We do the heavy lifting. We support our children. One speech from a teacher union leader will not make us forget their role in this entire year of educators’ abandonment of American children. 

Christina Laster
Christina Laster is a civil rights activist and humanitarian who serves as Director of Policy and Legislation for the National Parents Union. She is also the founder of the Inland Empire and San Diego Parent Unions, a former statewide community organizer with the California Policy Center, and a Black parent and grandparent in Southern California. Christina was formerly an executive committee member of the California Hawaii NAACP, the Education chairwoman and Youth Council advisor of Southwest Riverside County NAACP.

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