JEDEDIAH BILA (HOST): The Los Angeles Unified School District moving to begin the school year this fall with online learning, but the powerful L.A. teachers union publishing a lengthy list of demands for reopening schools -- many seemingly unrelated to COVID-19, like defunding the police and banning charter schools. So is the union playing politics with the pandemic? Let's ask the Heritage Foundation Center for Education Policy Director Lindsey Burke. Lindsey, I'm trying as a former educator to figure out what these demands have to do with ensuring child safety during a pandemic? Am I missing something?
LINDSEY BURKE: No, you're not, Jedediah. This is clearly not about children's education. This is just another example of the unions putting politics ahead of what is in the best interest of children. They are using this moment right now to try to fulfill a liberal wish list and they're using this question of school reopening as a bargaining chip during the pandemic. And so it's really clear this is not about the health and safety and the school reopening question, this is about advancing a radical agenda that includes everything from eliminating charter schools and raising taxes to Medicare for All and defunding the police. We should not be defunding the police, if anything we should be defunding the teachers unions to provide some real accountability to families.
BILA: You mentioned defunding the police, L.A. teachers union has called for that and we have a quote from them, let's take a look at it: “Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people and is a serious public health and moral issue. We must shift the astronomical amount of money devoted to policing to education and other essential needs, such as housing and public health." Your reaction?
BURKE: Well, look, the whole “defund the police" question came up as a matter of police union accountability, which makes it pretty rich if we think about how unions have blocked accountability in school districts for years. And look no further than Los Angeles itself, where this report was just released. Only 18% -- 18% of eighth grade students in Los Angeles can read proficiently. That should keep us up at night, but at the very least, it should catalyze policy makers to immediately provide some school choice options for families.
BILA: Lindsey Burke, I can talk to you about our broken educational system all day, I'll have to have you back for more of that. That's all the time we have today. Thanks for your input as always.