Corey DeAngelis blasts teachers’ unions for holding K-12 education “hostage” during pandemic

Prominent school choice proponent Corey DeAngelis appeared on Dr. Phil this week to discuss the role teachers’ unions played in undermining public education during the pandemic.

“Places that had stronger teachers’ unions, all else equal, were substantially and statistically less likely to open their schools in person,” said Deangelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children. “I don’t blame the people in the system. I blame the incentives that are baked into the system itself.”

Deangelis cited a study he conducted with Christos Makridis which reviewed 835 public school districts.

“The private schools are fighting to reopen from the get-go,” said Deangelis. “But you had the public school teachers’ unions fighting to remain closed.

“And the main difference there is one of incentives, that one of those sectors receives children’s education dollars regardless of whether they even open their doors for business.”

This problem was especially salient in Chicago where teachers voted to return to online instruction in January.

Even Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the decision “would harm hundreds of thousands of Chicago families that rely on CPS [Chicago Public Schools] for their daily needs.”

Unsurprisingly, Chicago’s recent test scores are abysmal. Only 20% of CPS students read at grade level, and only 15% are proficient in math.

“Teachers’ unions started to understand that they could actually hold children’s education hostage, essentially in perpetuity, to secure multiple multi-billion dollar ransom payments from the federal government,” Deangelis said. “And it actually worked out for them.”  

He explains the federal government provided $190 billion in pandemic relief funds for K-12 education. The overwhelming majority of those funds – 93% or $122 billion – remains unspent 

Despite the additional funding, the National Education Assocation reported the loss of 600,000 educators during the pandemic. Hiring rates also decreased from 1.06 hires for every job opening in 2016 to 0.59 in 2022.  

Data also indicate that teachers are leaving unions due to their increased politicization.  

“Anybody who believes this teachers’ union is merely a union hasn’t been paying attention,” said Lightfoot in January. “They believe themselves to be a political movement or political party and that is the lens through which we have to view every one of their actions.”  

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also spoke against teachers’ unions on Monday and argued for paycheck protection for teachers whose union dues are automatically deducted from their paychecks.  

“I don’t blame the people in the system, but they did have an incentive to keep their doors closed to secure these ransom payments,” concludes Deangelis. “In Chicago, ‘two weeks to slow the spread’ turned into two years to flatten a generation of children.”