San Francisco’s One-Day School Reopening Shows Teacher Unions’ True Colors

The San Francisco Unified School District and United Educators of San Francisco, the local affiliate of the National Education Association, the country’s largest special interest group, have reached an agreement to allow high school seniors to “return” to school.

According to the deal, two of the city’s twelve high schools, which have been closed for more than a full calendar year, will “open” on May 14 for one day of “in-person supervision” so that they can receive a $15 million handout from the state government for getting kids back into school before the -- wait for it -- May 15 deadline.

Yep, just one day. Yep, just two schools. Yep, just for “in-person supervision,” not “in-person instruction.”

“In-person supervision” is union-speak for “Shut up and sit here in this room all day while we count our money.” On May 13, the union’s position was that the high schools aren’t safe to open. On May 14, they are safe enough to open, as long as you have that check in hand. On May 15? Who knows? Probably back to being unsafe again, unless you really make it worth our while.

Unions across the country have been fighting the reopening of public schools tooth and nail for more than a year, “the science” be damned.

Evidence showing schools could reopen safely with little risk of transmission or infection in the classroom? Yeah, they don’t care.

Evidence that these long-term school closures were having negative mental and physical consequences for children, let alone their serious academic consequences? “So what?” the unions say. They aren’t putting one toe in the classroom, your children be damned, until they get Medicare for All, a moratorium on housing evictions, a wealth tax, a moratorium on charter schools, an end to voucher programs, the Maltese Falcon, and the secret to eternal life.

If it were up to them, you’d be having drinks with Godot before your child is able to go back to school.

The sad truth is that the more power a union has in your school district, the less likely it was that your child’s public school would be open and ready to serve them. Multiple studies have shown this to be the case.

Further, multiple others have shown that these decisions by teacher unions not to return to the classroom have been political, not scientific. This has never been about “safety” with the unions, nor the “evidence” or the “science.” It is all a power play, and your kids have been caught in the middle of it.

To be sure, it isn’t as if the unions even consider your kids collateral damage, unintentionally harmed by their actions. No, your kids, and you, are the intended target. Causing your children pain was supposed to be the impetus to get you to implore your local school district to cave to their demands.

Fortunately, their plans seemed to have backfired as more and more parents have finally had the veil lifted from their eyes and seen these unions for what they really are: mafias in pants suits.

Education choice has never been as popular as this very moment. Policymakers have been listening. To date, 33 states have moved forward with education choice legislation this session, with 11 states passing some type of school choice bill. This education choice legislation tsunami is not likely to dissipate.  

American children will never receive a good education until the last public school administrator is strangled with the entrails of the last teacher union official. Unless, that is, we give every American child access to an education choice program. That is the only way to dilute their power over you and your children.

The goal of public education in the United States today and in the years to come should be to allow all parents to choose which schools their children attend, require every school to compete for every student who walks through its doors, and make sure every child has the opportunity to attend a quality school.

With unions fighting reopenings every step of the way, with no concern for the mental, physical, and academic well-being of their charges, there has not been a time when providing these opportunities has been more urgent and more needed than right now. 

Tim Benson (tbenson@heartland.orgis a policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, a national free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Image: SFUSD

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.

If you experience technical problems, please write to