Monday, February 8, 2021

Is America's Educational System Becoming More Pluralistic? - The Atlantic

Is America's Educational System Becoming More Pluralistic? - The Atlantic
Is America’s Educational System Becoming More Pluralistic?
The past year has produced a cross-class coalition for educational choice that reaches deep into the suburbs.

President Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants to “reopen school doors as quickly as possible,” and that he’s willing to spend generously to make this happen. But he’s not going to get his wish. Even if Congress passes the president’s pandemic-relief plan, which includes $130 billion for the reopening of K–12 schools, in addition to the $67.2 billion Congress has already authorized under the CARES Act and the pandemic-relief legislation that passed in December, some teachers’ unions are setting out conditions for reopening that will be exceedingly difficult to meet, and threatening further “safety strikes” if they don’t get their way. In some districts where the teachers’ unions are especially powerful, the return of in-person learning might not happen until well into the 2021–22 school year. And the longer the COVID-19 disruption lasts, the more likely it is to have a deep and lasting impact on the politics of public education.

The heavy toll of school closures—on parents who are finding themselves under intense economic and emotional strain, on students who are experiencing profound learning loss that threatens to compound over time—might have been expected to put teachers’ unions at a political disadvantage. That’s certainly the impression you’d get from recent reports of fierce battles over school reopenings in cities and towns across the country. Judging by recent surveys, however, parental opinion of teachers’ unions has barely budged since the start of the pandemic.

Why has the political response to school closures been so muted? For one, at least 28 percent of students are receiving instruction that is fully in-person, and many reside in Republican-leaning districts. As the political scientists Michael T. Hartney and Leslie K. Fingers recently observed, the best predictor for whether a school district offered in-person learning this fall was Donald Trump’s vote share in that district in 2016. In California, for example, public schools in politically competitive and right-leaning areas such as Fresno, San Diego, and Orange Counties are mostly in-person while schools in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles remain entirely remote. Reopening battles between unionized teachers and parents desperate for in-person learning are mostly taking place in Democratic cities and suburbs.

Moreover, blue-state parents are divided on the question of reopening schools. Though learning loss has been  CONTINUE READING: Is America's Educational System Becoming More Pluralistic? - The Atlantic