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It's time to break up the nation's education monopoly

For the third straight day last week, the Chicago Teachers Union canceled classes, choosing to return to virtual learning and citing dangers from the Omicron variant as their excuse.

To many, this is seen as nothing more than a teachers’ strike and power grab executed by a union that historically supports Democrat politicians. Democrats send federal aid to the union, and the union then uses it to turn out more votes for Democrats. Anyone else see a double problem in this mutual back-scratching system?

When Boston police officers went on strike in 1919, then-Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge called the strikers “deserters” and “traitors,” adding, in a telegram to Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

While the situation in Chicago is different from the Boston police strike, the refusal by teachers to return to classrooms is causing a different kind of harm to children and parents. There is the mental and emotional damage caused to children, in addition to challenges associated with learning from home and the financial and childcare pressure on parents.

The federal government has supplied $5 billion to Illinois for the purpose of keeping schools open and in-classroom teaching. As in many other states, Illinois has been using the money for other purposes. While this is technically allowed, politicians should demand the money back if states and cities don’t use the money for the purpose for which it was intended.

Could the fact that most private and religious schools remained open during the pandemic be because they didn’t have union bosses dictating to them?

There may never be a better time to break the power of the teachers’ unions, and what is likely the last monopoly in America, the public school system.

School choice is the answer. Competition works in every other field. It can also work in education. Currently, there are 27 voucher programs in 16 states and the District of Columbia, according to Education Commission of the States. More are needed and now is the opportune moment for voters to pressure politicians into creating them in other states that don’t offer them. Illinois offers K-12 students and their parents several types of school choice, including two private programs, charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling and intra-district public school choice via an open enrollment policy,” according to edchoice.org. More parents should investigate and take advantage of them.

The intellectual, moral, and patriotic education of our children are keys to maintaining the country we have enjoyed for more than two centuries. Other countries, especially China, are way ahead of us when it comes to math and science. They send many of their top students here to be educated at our best universities and many then return to China to apply what they’ve learned in ways that further the interests of their country, interests which are often counter to our own.

One of the definitions of “monopoly” is “An exclusive privilege to carry on a business, traffic, or service, granted by a government.”

The education monopoly has long-exceeded its sell-by date and needs to be broken up. This will allow parents, not government, to decide which system best suits their children. Education choice puts children first ahead of government and unions.

Cal Thomas can be reached by email at tcaeditors@tribpub.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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