If Teachers Unions Have a Seat at the Table Then Why Not Students?

The 74 recently published an article that spoke to how teacher unions want a seat at the table when it comes to reopening schools. Mike Antonucci did an awesome job of capturing the view of teachers unions and why they must have a seat at the table.

Well, Mike and all, as much as teacher unions need a seat the table, so do our students!

EdLanta’s Student Coalition was formed last year during the pandemic because innovation still isn’t at the forefront of the conversation about education. That’s partly due to students not having a voice at the table. 

“No one wants to return to in-person learning more than the educators who dedicate their lives to helping their students succeed.” — National Education Association, Jan. 14, 2021. However, this isn’t necessarily true. 

What is true is that no student wants to return to in-person learning with the same systemic racism and oppression that deters them from better educational outcomes. Equity is still a top issue in public education. 

“Districts may overcome all obstacles to reopen schools, but they alone will bear the brunt of responsibility for what happens afterward.” 

Our student leaders don’t agree. In a recent virtual series, “Change the Game,” student leaders shared their views on ownership of reopening. They believe school district board members aren’t the only people  who should be held responsible. 

Local and state elected officials who didn’t enforce protocols for safer reopening measures, local nightclubs, restaurants, and superspreader events, and quite frankly, the irresponsible citizens who engaged in safe practices are responsible. 

We can’t get caught up in the blame game for reopening schools when the fact will stand that we allowed schools to reopen that already don’t serve Black and brown children well.  

Additionally, within the article, it reflected that some union officers outright avoided questions around reopening. One statement in particular stood out.  “I don’t see us getting back to any more of a normal schedule any sooner than this fall,” said Zeph Capo, the president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers.

Our EdLanta Student Coalition Leaders agree with this. In fact, we shouldn’t be going back to anything normal that was supported by inequitable educational practices, beliefs, or policies that disenfranchise Black and brown students in public schools. 

If teachers unions have a seat at the table, then why not students? Student leaders play a critical role in reimagining schools and much needed conversation on innovation, equity, and better outcomes for Black and brown students. 

Jason B. Allen is a Special Education Teacher in Clayton County, Georgia. He is a member of the Association of American Educators (AAE) and an AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellow.


  1 comment for “If Teachers Unions Have a Seat at the Table Then Why Not Students?

More Comments

%d bloggers like this: