By Patrick Hauf
The president of one of the largest teachers’ unions in the country denied that students suffered any educational setbacks caused by virtual schooling—a claim rebuked by a variety of studies—as labor leaders push back against school reopenings.
Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), said students received a sufficient education in 2020 because they learned words like “protest” and “insurrection” rather than experiencing the benefits of in-class instruction from the union’s 33,000 members. Myart-Cruz fought against reopening efforts in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.
“There is no such thing as learning loss,” the union president told Los Angeles Magazine. “Our kids didn’t lose anything. 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.”
High school students who attended virtual schooling suffered academically, socially, and mentally in comparison with those who had in-person instruction, according to a study from the American Educational Research Association. More than half of K-12 teachers reported a significant loss in learning due to virtual instruction, according to a report by Horace Mann. The Centers for Disease Control said virtual schooling may present more risks than in-person instruction.
Myart-Cruz successfully opposed school reopening in the fall of 2020, citing concerns with the pandemic. She went on to oppose Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D.) reopening plan in the spring of 2021, which eventually resulted in a delayed hybrid reopening. Los Angeles schools fully opened in August with a mask requirement.
Laura Zorc, executive director of Building Education for Students Together, said teachers’ unions deny the facts about the negative impact of virtual schooling because they are afraid to admit they were wrong.
“Forcing students to stay out of school has shown the union’s true motivation and parents are now awake to it,” Zorc said. “Cecily Myart-Cruz’s comments demonstrate how out of touch the teachers’ union’s priorities are with working-class Americans. This is nothing more than a cheap trick to disguise the lasting damage teachers’ unions have done to families across the country.”
The UTLA has become increasingly political under Myart-Cruz. The union is reportedly set to take up a vote on whether to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. Myart-Cruz rose to fame through her involvement with the National Education Association Black Caucus and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. She served as a top UTLA official during the 2019 teacher strike that resulted in increased pay.
“It is not radical to ask for ethnic studies,” Myart-Cruz told the Los Angeles Magazine. “It is not radical to ask for childcare. It’s not radical to ask for police-free schools so that students don’t feel criminalized. That is not radical; that’s just fact.”