When it comes to reopening schools teachers must be selfish

by Michael Kane


The reopening of schools in America, especially in densely populated urban centers, is the most crucial issue the nation faces today and the implications are vast. As an NYC public school teacher for nearly 14 years I am not apologetic in viewing this critical moment selfishly, as in what is best for educators.

After 9-11, teachers were rushed back into school buildings which turned out to be death traps of toxic ventilation leading to thousands of WTC-related cancers years later. Reporter Bob Hennelly recently wrote about this in a piece for Salon.com. Years after that, teacher whistleblower Joe Mugivan revealed many NYC schools had toxic ventilation systems because then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had penned real estate deals that erected school buildings on top of toxic waste sites. Mugivan’s concerns were dangerously ignored even by his own union – my union, the UFT – and its leadership, namely Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew.

Now in the post-COVID era ventilation is getting scrutinized once again, as it should. Regardless of COVID no ventilation system should be poisoning educators and students. There now needs to be a permanent task force created to conduct ongoing ventilation screenings throughout NYC Schools related to the spread of airborne pathogens like SARS CoV-2 as well as to identify and eliminate toxic exposures in school buildings. It is good to see this issue getting scrutinized properly and publicly today.

But what is not getting scrutinized adequately is how teaching as a middle class profession is under attack, and this deserves as much if not more attention than safety concerns.

On May 5, 2020, when New York was still at the height of the COVID pandemic, the now embattled Governor Cuomo came on to his daily presser and wondered out loud why we still teach children in big buildings when we have so much wonderful technology. This was the launch of “reimagine education.”

I thought this was a crash-course plan to help us get through the pandemic. I was wrong. Reimagining education at a distance has been in the works for at least 6 years, and the heads of the teacher unions signed off on it years before COVID. This includes Randi Weingarten and Becky Pringle. What teachers are not understanding is that all of the concerns surrounding safety are being used to reimagine human teachers out of our jobs, and there are multiple ways we are about to lose our jobs, which include:

Even the MORE caucus of NYC teachers, who rabidly demand all schools must be 100% closed and remote, recently admitted Ed-tech is a serious threat to the public school system. The longer teachers work remotely, the longer we play into the Ed-tech agenda which does not include a robust middle-class profession of teachers. Former NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza played a major role in keeping NYC schools shuttered and working remotely. He resigned and is now working at a major Ed-Tech company who made millions off of the COVID crisis and the NYC schools that Carranza shuttered. If teachers can’t read the tea leaves here we have a real problem.

I have detailed some of these Ed-tech threats to teachers in past reports, and will continue to do so in future ones. In this report I want to identify and focus on what the number one threat facing the teaching profession is today:

Losing Democrat Parents

For my entire teaching career parents and teachers have overall been a unified force in NYC. I have gone to Albany four times to lobby for the UFT political agenda and we always have dozens if not hundreds of parents with us. Parents intrinsically know they want happy, well supported, decently paid adults teaching and supervising their children; this just makes sense.

COVID has rapidly changed this dynamic.

When schools first closed we were all scared, and everyone shouldered and accepted the burdens of remote learning. However one year later that is no longer the consensus, especially among parents who view teachers as the main obstacle to getting their children back to in-person schooling. Teachers have always had to deal with Republicans and conservatives standing in opposition to us and our unions, but now Democrat and progressive parents are turning on teachers and our unions, but for good reason. There is a very vocal contingency of teachers screaming to keep all schools 100% closed. Parents who want their children to learn in-person are merely advocating for the rights, the health, and the well being of their children.

And, as usual, teacher optics are pitiful.

We saw a powerful board member of the Chicago Teachers Union calling on educators to refuse to report to school while she was poolside in Puerto Rico, and in California another powerful union president who is helping to keep his school district closed was photographed dropping his own child off at in-person private school.

Great job, educators!

Sadly, there are many more stories like this.

Essentially parents pay public school teacher salaries. The division that is occurring now between parents and public school teachers in NYC is astonishing, and troubling. NYC is, of course, dominated by Democratic politicians and policies but the Dems are not a monolith on reopening schools vs. remote learning. This growing and widening split among NYC liberals is creating a culture of teacher hatred.

During the dark ages of Mayor Bloomberg the attack on teachers was a daily occurrence. It was a tough time, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew saw NYC teachers through that tough time with strong leadership. The new dark age we are entering is much different. It is not a corporate capitalist that has us in the crosshairs, it is our number one supporter! Or perhaps I need to say our former number one supporter. The teacher hatred of the Bloomberg era left when Bloomberg left. In came De Blasio, who was very buddy-buddy with Mulgrew, they negotiated our retro-backpay as the daily attacks on teachers subsided substantially.

This new wave of teacher hatred is not leaving any time soon.

It is not leaving until teachers get back to in-person education or until there is a rupture or a split of a new kind (keep an eye on vaccine-passport-lover Andrew Yang in this regard). These Democrat parents, our former supporters, are moving towards “school choice” and supporting vouchers which would direct public money to fund children, not schools. This conservative position is starting to find new supporters all across the country.

As a union member I am now – and always have been – strongly against vouchers and the “school choice” movement. However in an era where public school teachers are loudly fighting against returning to their school buildings to teach children in-person, the arguments I used to make against school choice are now extremely weak. Who knew one of the best selling points for private school in 2021 was going to be WE TEACH KIDS IN PERSON 5 DAYS A WEEK!

Every teacher in a union should be terrified of this!

Are public school teachers who demand to work remotely suiciding the middle class profession of teaching?

One thought on “When it comes to reopening schools teachers must be selfish

  1. This piece is exactly the cutting edge communication I have known we need, Michael – for one, to reach out to teachers so they at least are aware of the predatory grab for their very livelihoods – “that all of the concerns surrounding safety are being used to reimagine human teachers out of our jobs, and there are multiple ways we are about to lose our jobs”. Now the next question is, how can we broadcast this to the collective body of teachers in NY?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: