By Bridget Barton
This article provided by Oregon Transformation Newsletter.
By now, literally millions of parents have watched the video or seen news reports of Oakley Union School Board members belittling and shaming parents about wanting their kids back in school. They shame them for wanting “their babysitters back” and imply that parents want to send kids to school so they can smoke weed at home. Their disdain for parents is deep and ugly. The video (forward to last four minutes) demonstrates so much of what is wrong with school governance and explains in clear, unambiguous language why so many of our kids are still locked out of their schools.
And though this was a California school board, the same attitudes prevail in Oregon. That’s why Oregon schools, like California’s, are still not open and may not even be open next fall. Yet schools across the country have been open, many since September, without any serious problems or outbreaks. The CDC has been advocating for open schools since last summer.
But the simmering anger of parents, like those ridiculed and shamed by the school board members in the video, has reached its limit and has begun to boil over, including here in Oregon. It really doesn’t matter whether they want a babysitter or a rocket scientist teaching their kids. Parents have finally fully comprehended that they pay for teachers to teach their kids. They are the customer. And they are being completely ignored and betrayed.
The Oakley School Board members were forced to resign. Many school board members standing in the way of opening schools in Oregon still hold power.
You might wonder why school board members would behave this way. Why have they left Oregon kids among the last in America to have a chance to go back to school? Why have they banned kids from many team sports? Why are dance teams canceled but strip clubs are open? Aren’t they worried about being reelected?
The short answer is no. Many school boards don’t worry much about elections, nor do they listen much to parents or value parents’ perspectives. Why? Because they don’t have to. Because they don’t really answer to parents. Because parents and kids aren’t really their customer, though they should be.
The real question is: How did they get elected in the first place?
Here’s the inside truth about most school board elections, something more and more angry parents and disillusioned mom groups are figuring out on their own.
Too many school board members have gained their seats by direct influence and direct support of the teachers unions. They owe their seats to the teachers unions. They answer to the teachers unions. They believe they will only be reelected with continued support of the teachers unions.
Go back through your Voters’ Pamphlets and you will see the endorsements or the veiled references to the Oregon Education Association or local education associations. Look up the spending reports and see the dollars flowing from unions to fill these seats.
This is not how this structure is supposed to work. The teachers unions have every right and responsibility to represent the teachers. But the school boards are supposed to represent the parents, the kids and the community – not the teachers, not the unions. The relationship between the union and the school board should be cooperative, but by its very nature should be somewhat adversarial.
Allowing the teachers unions to represent the teachers and also speak for the students, parents and the community is … well, we’ve all just experienced how that works when we have a really serious issue. It doesn’t work at all.
For the past two to three decades this problem of teachers union dominance on school boards has been building. Plenty of parents have run into the brick wall of union control on both sides of a debate, whether the issue was fewer classroom days, dwindling classroom hours, fad curricula (from CIM-CAM in the 90s to math with no right answers today), optional student testing, or boys competing in girls sports, the list goes on … Try taking one of these issues before your school board and see if you feel “listened to.”
It may be a bit harsh, but it’s probably true that most parents have just turned a blind eye to this growing problem. They’re working, raising their family, paying the bills. They do their best to vote for good candidates. Sadly, they trusted that the support of the teachers union for a board candidate meant they were informed and on the side of teachers.
But that’s not what it means. Teachers union support means support for the union, not for individual schoolteachers. And definitely not for parents, or kids, or our communities.
On May 18, across Oregon, parents will have a chance to vote for new school board members. This is their chance to do their homework and elect candidates who will fully open our schools. For the sake of our kids, read carefully, research carefully, join or create a social media group to interview candidates. Find out if they represent parents or teachers unions. Any whiff of union support, either personal or financial, whether now or in the past, should be a giant red flag.
Our kids and our schools have paid a heavy price for this teachers union dominance over the last 30 years. Our school costs have skyrocketed and their performance has plummeted.
But this needless, dangerous, destructive lockout is harming our children. And make no mistake, it is the teachers unions, not the teachers themselves who are responsible. Many teachers want to go back, like the rest of the country.
Parents must reassert their position as the customer and demand direct representation on their school boards. The coming election is a first chance. Take it, or leave your kids to languish in depression and dismal educational failure.
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