The head of the Los Angeles teachers union said “there is no such thing as learning loss,” despite evidence of massive educational declines due to a year of remote learning.
Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told LA Magazine that “It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.”
When schools shut down in early 2020 due to coronavirus, the union demanded that teachers not have to teach remotely for more than four hours a day, despite receiving pay for a full day. Teachers often simply posted assignments that students were expected to download and complete on their own.
Nearly two-thirds of students largely ignored this version of school, and almost none of the district’s 229,000 elementary school students logged on at all, LA Magazine reported.
Staying at home has also made children fat, which is one of the main risk factors for coronavirus.
In calling for schools to be closed completely last school year, the union focused more on far-left politics, writing that “The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States underscores the deep equity and justice challenges arising from our profoundly racist, intensely unequal society.”
They demanded to “defund police,” make housing a human right, and institute a moratorium on charter schools, which are popular with racial minorities but which the union said could “drain resources” from the union members’ employer.
The superintendent, Austin Beutner, quit on June 30, writing in his resignation letter that “UTLA leadership were asked to consider all the different ways to [return to classrooms] with full pay… They would not agree to any of these.”
Parents filed lawsuits (one alleged that “UTLA and its president Cecily Myart-Cruz have held the current well-being and future prospects of LAUSD students hostage”) and demanded the recall of school board members.
But Myart-Cruz gloated: “You can recall the Governor. You can recall the school board. But how are you going to recall me?”
As students languished, Myart-Cruz pushed for a property tax hike, which was rejected by voters. When Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom offered $2 billion in extra funding for schools that opened by April 2021 — which presumably would address the same funding needs underlying a property tax hike — Myart-Cruz rejected the offer, saying too much of the money would go to “white and wealthier schools.”
As remote learning widened the racial gap when it came to academic performance, Myart-Cruz insisted that calls to provide school to children were racist.
She claimed she was being “stalked by wealthy, white, Middle Eastern parents.” A UTLA staff member contacted one parent, Maryam Qudrat, who wanted her child to at least receive more hours of Zoom classes, asking “pointed questions about her racial background,” LA Magazine reported.
For the school year beginning this month — the third school year affected by coronavirus — the union insisted on a virtual option for those who want it, which experts believe will be used largely by blacks and Latinos and which clearly leads to worse academic results than in-person learning.
Even within the union, Myart-Cruz’s claim to a mandate is thin: only 16 percent of the union’s 33,000 members voted in its 2020 officers election.
Yet the teachers union is astonishingly powerful. Its electoral efforts in ordinarily low-turnout races make politicians afraid to cross it. Voters have elected union officials as school board members, including Myart-Cruz’s romantic partner, who is an Oakland school board member.
In the first quarter of this year, the California Teachers Association, the UTLA’s statewide affiliate, spent $2.85 million on lobbying, more than twice as much as the second- and third-biggest special interests, which were both oil companies.
The magazine quoted a former school official who refused to give his name because he was “scared” of the union. “UTLA is not a normal union,” he said.