According to the National Center for Education statistics, about 76% of public school teachers were women in the 2017-2018 school year, and 24% were men. The percentages of women in this traditionally female-dominated profession actually increased slightly since 2000, when the ratio was 75% to 25%. Thus, one would expect teachers, on the whole, to be more sensitive to the economic plight of women in the workforce than the norm. Well, if one did expect that, one would be wrong. From The Washington Post:
With day-care centers shuttered or severely restricting enrollment, and school districts opting for remote learning, many women are finding they just can’t make their jobs work during the pandemic. That could have lasting consequences.
By Alicia Sasser Modestino | July 29, 2020 | 7:00 AM EDT
I have four children, one of them in elementary school. My school district just announced that its preferred plan is for school to operate in a hybrid fashion, alternating between in-person weeks and weeks of remote learning. Aside from my concerns about whether this plan is developmentally appropriate for young children who need regular routines, as a working parent I am utterly exhausted thinking about how we will manage.
It is not as if parents’ jobs can be put on hold every other week. As a college professor, I am fortunate to have a somewhat flexible schedule and can work from home a lot of the time. But roughly half of all essential workers (about 27 million) are women — mostly working in-person jobs in health care and community-based services — who do not have the option of working remotely.
That is, if we can find child care. Already, the capacity of day-care centers has been reduced due to strict child-staff ratios and staffing requirements. Given that day cares historically operate on slim profit margins, these initial restrictions — coupled with the expense of purchasing personal protective equipment, or PPE, for staff and additional cleaning materials — could mean steep increases in tuition or going out of business. Some advocates anticipate a wave of permanent closures, leading to the loss of as many as 450,000 child-care slots — reducing the supply exactly when demand will spike because of widespread remote learning. Among working parents who reported needing care, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) had difficulty finding child care in the first months of the pandemic. Even relying on grandparents can be uncertain — particularly in states with high and/or resurging covid-19 caseloads.
Where does that leave working parents? With two colleagues, I conducted a national panel survey of 2,557 working parents between Mother’s Day (May 10) and Father’s Day (June 21) to find out. We learned that 13.3 percent of working parents had lost a job or reduced their hours due to a lack of child care. Working parents lost eight hours per week on average, or one full working day, to care for their children. In households with two working adults, we found an even greater loss of 14.6 hours per week, potentially representing a significant hit to total family income.
Some families found short-term child-care solutions by reducing hours, taking paid or unpaid leave, or alternating schedules with another adult in their household. However, these stopgap measures were based on the assumption that the fall would bring a return to school and organized child care and are simply unsustainable for the long term. In a recent survey, half of parents of young children in Massachusetts said they “will not be able to return to work without a consistent child-care solution.”
There’s more at the original, but the author continues to tell us what we already assumed: it is primarily women rather than men who are unable to keep their jobs due to the collapse of child care. But google teachers union demand remote learning and you’re going to get about 72,200,000 results, such as The New York Times telling us that the unions are afraid of physically reopening the schools, but are worried about ‘remote instruction, too, the Chicago teachers’ unions demanding remote learning in the fall, and the same in Cleveland Heights, Kalamazoo, Plainfield, Minneapolis and St Paul, the entire Utah Education Association, and the Durham (north Carolina) Association of Teachers demanded that the Governor shut down the entire state, suspend all mortgage payments and that universal health care must be implemented.
Of course, teachers haven’t lost their jobs, and most can make their mortgage payments, and already have solid health care coverage plans, so these ‘demands’ are more about Democratic Party policy goals than education.
But, to achieve that, a profession that is ¾ women are demanding that other people, primarily other women, have to sacrifice their jobs and their careers for the good of the teachers. That’s feminism in 2020!
For low-income and single moms, the pandemic has exacerbated the hard choices between spending a significant portion of their income on child care; finding a cheaper but potentially lower-quality option; or leaving the workforce to become a full-time caregiver. Our survey of working parents found that the loss of hours due to a lack of child care is greater for women of color, women without a college degree and women living in low-income households. Low-income, less educated and nonwhite households were also less likely to have backup child care.
It is black women, who are more likely to be single mothers, who are more likely to be less educated, who are more likely to have been lower-income, who will see a greater negative impact from this. But the very liberal, very feminist, very #woke teachers, they don’t care about that, do they?
Of course, it’s more than just that. A significant portion of our economy is the maintenance of other people going to work. If a teacher can conduct her classes online from her home, she won’t be stopping at Turkey Hill or Dunkin’ Donuts, etc, for a cup of coffee and a bagel on the way to work. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, it also means that a whole bunch of other people, having to stay home to take care of the kids, will also not be stopping by WaWa or Seven/Eleven for coffee, it means that a lot of people won’t be buying lunches during the workday, it means that literally millions of people will not be making the purchases that go along with working every day.
That snowballs: if millions of daily purchases are no longer being made, it means that the people who work in convenience stores and restaurants and fast food joints will have less business to support themselves . . . and that means more job losses. And, once again, those job losses will primarily be among women. If millions of women are forced out of work, that means lower sales of clothing appropriate for work, which means less business for clothing stores, which means more salespeople out of work . . . and, once again, that primarily means women.
The sheer magnitude of the disruption to child care during the pandemic will probably affect women’s labor force participation and earnings trajectories for decades to come. Research shows that women who drop out of the workforce to take care of children often have trouble getting back in, and the longer they stay out, the harder it is to return. Wage losses are much more severe and enduring when they occur in recessions, and workers who lose jobs now are less likely to have secure employment in the future. These effects accumulate over time as people who drop out of the labor force miss out on pay increases and promotions that come from long-term relationships with an employer.
This is not a small problem that will be easily solved. Parents with children under the age of 14 make up almost one-third of the country’s workforce, or roughly 50 million workers, meaning any economic recovery will rely on their continued participation or reentry into the labor force. The child-care industry consists of a network of nearly 675,000 small businesses, employing 1.5 million workers¹, that operate on razor thin margins even in good times.
Teachers do not like to think of themselves as child-care workers, but that is part of what they are. Not just child care, but free childcare, at least in the sense that parents are not paying more than their normal education-support taxes for the service. Parents who do find child care so that they can work, without the schools to care for their children from 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM, will have to shell out much more for child care services, and will still be stuck with paying those education taxes.
Of course, the article author, Alicia Sasser Modestino, “is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, where she studies issues related to gender and the labor market.” She is still employed, and she “can work from home a lot of the time.” She studies issues like this, but in many ways she isn’t one of the poor, whose lives are nailed to their spines, and simply has less understanding of the problem. Northeastern University’s Russell J Call Children’s Center:
Offering convenient, subsidized care, the Russell J. Call Children’s Center can enroll up to 38 children. Located on campus at 1 Fencourt Street, the center provides quality early-childhood education and child care to children. Parents who are members of Northeastern’s faculty and staff receive priority.
The center accepts, on a space-available basis, children between the ages of 2 years 9 months through 5 years. The center’s costs compare favorably with other local centers.
So, it looks like Dr Modestino won’t really have that much of a child car problem!
Dr Modestino doesn’t like the proposed Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act, which would provide $70 billion in federal aid for assisting public schools, but reserves 2/3 of that for in-person education; the author calls that “heavy-handed.” Instead she says that “A far better solution would be to provide additional funding for day care, giving parents the flexibility they desperately need without dictating a one-size-fits-all solution across school districts.”
Thing is, that doesn’t solve the problem: can the poorly-paid day care workers really supervise the millions of children being expected to do their ‘remote learning’ in the day care centers? That has to be difficult on parents, who (mostly) have only a couple of children who require that supervision, and who actually love their children; can we really expect it from day care workers? How many day care centers have the facilities and the space to handle so many more children for the full work day? How many day care centers can feed that many children lunch?
Dr Modestino is an undoubtedly intelligent woman, but she is one of the elites, one of those who can do some of her work from home, one who isn’t worried about from where her next paycheck will come or how to put food on the table. And she suffers from one of the real problems of the elites: they may, may! have a sort of intellectual conception of the plight of the working class, but they cannot really understand what life is like for them. The working class need the public schools, to care for their children as well as educate them, in ways that child care centers simply cannot do.
I know, I know, as a conservative, I am supposed to advocate for private schools or parochial schools or charter schools as the better alternative, but having been a parochial school parent for part of my children’s education, I know, first-hand, that private schooling is difficult for parents, difficult in ways that the public schools are not. It isn’t just tuition, which can be a heavy enough burden for parents, but more is demanded of parents than just tuition.² Parents are expected for meetings, school functions and, of course, contributions to the school beyond tuition. Parents are responsible for transportation of students to and from school. And parents are responsible for school lunches, in ways that public school parents can often avoid. We were fortunate: my wife finished nursing school and got her license just as we had to put our daughters in parochial school. With what I earned alone, we simply could not have afforded it. What worked for us would not have worked for a whole lot of people.
Yes, we chose parochial schools when they were available — they were not when my daughters entered high school — because they provided what we believed was a better education and a better environment, but not everybody, not most people, can afford them. Our country depends on the public school system, and the public school teachers’ unions are hurting our country by their positions on returning to in-person classes.
¹ – That’s an average of only 2.22 workers per business.
² – My personal example: we were affiliated with three separate parishes, St Joseph’s in Hampton, Virginia, St Mary of the Assumption in New Castle County, Delaware, and St Joseph’s in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, as our children were in parochial schools, and all demanded church membership for preferred tuition. St Mary’s was the only one with a specified minimum church contribution to maintain that preferred rate, but all were keenly aware if you attended Mass frequently.
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