Written by Rebecca Friedrichs, founder of For Kids & Country and author of Standing Up to Goliath
Editor’s Note: this article was originally published in the Washington Examiner
The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing what many have known for decades: Our education system is broken. But the situation also presents us with a silver lining: the opportunity to uncover the damaging influences and restore education.
While millions of families are suddenly home schooling, it’s important to know that when our schools were elite and the envy of the world, we were a nation of home-schoolers and small, private, and independent schools.
What happened? Government and labor unions intruded, claiming families and educators needed them.
But do we? Theressah and Victor Ramirez say, “Absolutely not!”
The Ramirez’s live with their two sons in a low-income, immigrant neighborhood in San Diego, California. Like most parents, they want an outstanding education for their children, and they’re motivated to help them reach their dreams.
The Ramirez’s found a STEM school for their gifted and talented sons who want to attend universities. But they soon discovered the government-run school lacked gifted and talented resources, and shortsighted policies negatively impacted school culture and safety.
For example, the Ramirez boys grew their hair to donate to cancer victims. One son faced incessant bullying and was labeled “Sissy.” When the Ramirez’s approached the principal for help, feckless, union-supported, “racial equity,” lenient discipline policies resulted in continued bullying. Eventually, their son was verbally and physically assaulted.
Educators can make or break a school and a child. That principal and faculty could have built schoolwide support around the Ramirez’s efforts to bless cancer victims while building empathy in their community. Instead, they allowed unions and bullies to rule.
Hope soared when the boys reached middle school. They discovered a union-free charter school called Gompers Preparatory Academy. Free from government-union domination, teachers and staff at Gompers were empowered to speak for themselves, reject ineffective discipline policies, and avoid divisions that unions stir up between leadership, parents, and teachers.
Their leader, Director Vincent Riveroll, met regularly with parents and teachers. Together, they developed a longer school day and year to help children catch up on reading skills, and teachers tutored after school. They offered college-level classes and note-taking skills too.
The school’s motto is simple: “Students First.”
The culture is motivating. All staff welcome students cheerfully upon arrival each morning at “the Gate of Wisdom.” On “Fantastic Fridays” with music playing, they dance together through the gate.
What makes this especially remarkable is that before 2004, Gompers was gang-infested, dangerous, and low-performing. Theressah Ramirez said before the charter was formed: “The kids would stab each other. There were drugs. Teachers locked themselves into their classrooms. Nobody wanted to send their kids there.”
That’s when unions ruled Gompers.
But Riveroll’s vision, coupled with freedom from unions, transformed Gompers — same school, same neighborhood, empowered leadership.
The Ramirez’s told us: “We’re in one of the poorest neighborhoods, but at Gompers we see our dream coming true. Our son will be the first in our family to go to university. Our daughter didn’t have that luck.”
“Luck” should have nothing to do with gaining access to excellent, safe, and inspiring educational environments, but thanks to unions, schools like Gompers are under threat.
Tragically, in fall 2018, unions shattered the Ramirez’s dreams. A teacher on campus organized a few other teachers to unionize Gompers. They circulated a deceptive petition hoodwinking a majority of teachers to sign. Gompers was unionized by the San Diego Education Association, an affiliate of the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.
Teachers never even got a vote.
Since the union hijack of Gompers, Riveroll has been beaten down and stripped of his life-changing authority. Some discouraged teachers resigned. Union activist teachers refuse to tutor kids or greet them at “the Gate of Wisdom,” and they use class time to indoctrinate students in union messaging.
The welcoming spirit is dampened, and no one feels like dancing anymore.
Especially the Ramirez boys, who are being bullied again. Now they’re bullied by union activist “teachers” who ostracize them because their parents peacefully protest against unions who use their children, and their dreams, as pawns in a greedy battle.
While the world is quarantined, Riveroll faithfully provides excellent leadership and highly effective virtual learning (unlike most government-run schools), but Theressah Ramirez says union harassment of Riveroll and school leadership is increasing.
When Riveroll’s team rescued Gompers, they called their efforts “the war to reclaim Gompers.” They won the battle for 15 years until the unions reappeared and dropped another bomb. Rabid to push their political agenda through our schools and get their hands into teachers’ pockets, unions destroy the dreams of poor children and demolish the selfless efforts of dedicated educators and families.
This nightmare is repeated daily in countless schools across America. It’s the reason our schools are broken.
Gompers is but one skirmish in a bigger war to inoculate our education system against the virus infecting it: government unions. COVID-19 school closures provide the perfect opportunity to expose unions and their damaging impact and restore our schools to their former glory. If we do, educators and families will be empowered to reach their dreams again.
The original article published in the Washington Examiner can be read here.