As we discussed last week, school districts across the country are debating whether they will re-open at the start of the school year. Unfortunately, the discussion has become a hotbed for debate with the federal government pressuring schools to open up for in person education. This charge is being led by a POTUS who is cancelling his own scheduled campaign convention – his favorite activity in the world – due to health concerns and his robotic minion who has an unnatural taste for public school blood, Betsy DeVos. Although those of us in California took so many precautions, the virus is raging through the population. Many of our counties are on Gov Newsom’s Watch List (or, as we call it, his Naughty List) and we have been informed our school will not open unless we get ourselves off the Naughty List. We, as parents, are trying to decide what’s best for our kids, weighing the psychological factors with the threat to health. However, those getting lost in the discussion are the nation’s teachers, who are being forced to risk their lives so the current administration can forward their misguided campaign to appear as if everything is back to normal. But educators are pushing back, protesting that it simply isn’t fair to ask them to take this risk. Many will leave the field if they are forced to make this choice.
Teachers across the country have begun organizing protests to voice concerns about the Trump administration’s push for schools to reopen in the fall despite the coronavirus pandemic and to pressure school districts to delay the start of face-to-face instruction.
Educators who have been organizing independently in cities across the United States told BuzzFeed News they’re frustrated by the Trump administration’s campaign to return to school with no national plan to keep teachers and students from spreading the coronavirus and little to no funding for personal protective equipment.
Organizers from education advocacy movements like Red for Ed, which sparked a national movement for more school funding and better pay for teachers in 2018 and 2019, are focusing on whether and when teachers and students should return to classrooms as coronavirus cases surge.
“It’s one of those things where the teachers have been like, ‘I’ve been taken advantage of for one year, five years, 32 years, and now you’re putting my physical well-being in jeopardy — it’s not worth this, and that’s something that teachers don’t take lightly,” Lisa Ellis, the founder of the South Carolina for Education movement, told BuzzFeed News. “A decision to leave the classroom weighs very heavily on a teacher’s decision. We’ve been told, ‘Well, just do it for the children!’ and the gaslighting that goes along with that, but it’s finally like, ‘Nope! At the end of the day, my life and my health is more important than any of this!’”
In school districts across the country, teachers are organizing motor protests at state capitols, writing letters to governors and state legislators, and pressuring school boards to consider delaying the start of in-school instruction until the coronavirus outbreaks begin to subside in their communities. And in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, many teachers have begun voicing concerns about their districts’ lack of plans about keeping them safe if they do return to classrooms.
“This is going to tip teachers that were already on the fence about not teaching any longer into the territory of this is certainly not worth it, if they were thinking, Maybe I can hang in a little bit longer,” Ellis said. “The number one concern is the fact that nobody seems to care about the physical risk of teachers going back into the classroom — even with the hybrid models that are being presented, the students may not be there all week, but the teachers have to be there all five, and we have to work with all of the students.”
As CB reported, there are teachers writing out their wills and getting their affairs in order before they head back to the classroom. Think about that. All of this for a job that generally pays below a livable wage. The main issue, as the article said, is that plans to safely allow people to return to an enclosed learning environment are not being made available. Maybe they are in the works, maybe they’re currently being vetted, but they are not being made available to teachers, who are forced to consider the worst-case scenario. The good news is Red for Ed is involved along with teachers’ unions across the country. These are strong organizations and when they fight, they generally win. Most people assume that teachers work in such lousy conditions because they can’t fight for better but that’s not true. CB, Kaiser and I are all kids of public-school teachers (Oya herself taught overseas, too) and we can tell you that teachers don’t strike often because they always consider how the students will be impacted first. Obviously, the teachers are fighting as much for the students’ safety as their own. This is a fight they can win, but they will need our support.
As the article also pointed out, we stand to lose droves of valuable teachers if the government insists on this ridiculous reopening course of action. I realize a vaccine isn’t around the corner, but there have been successful trials, at least one of which is in its final stage. The whole world is working on a solution, not to mention the financial incentive to be the first to market it. Maybe the only safe way to send kids back to US schools is to wait for a vaccine. Virtual school is not working in our home, I feel that as much as my kids. I’m so very sorry that students have to go through this but if distance learning is the only safe option, I will do whatever they need to make it last. It is not worth risking our kids’ precious lives.
Just think, once we figure the pandemic out we can focus on the other issues school face like school shootings, bullying, racism, biased school track systems…
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