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Teachers’ Unions ‘Look Like The Last Line Of Defense’ In Trump’s “Reckless” School Reopening Crusade - Meanwhile, In Florida, Teachers Sue To Block School Coronavirus Reopening Mandate

Published Tuesday, July 21, 2020
by Labor News Wire Services: In These Times & National Public Radio
Teachers’ Unions ‘Look Like The Last Line Of Defense’ In Trump’s “Reckless” School Reopening Crusade - Meanwhile, In Florida, Teachers Sue To Block School Coronavirus Reopening Mandate

As American families fret over a patchwork set of standards for reopening schools that vary widely by city and state, Teachers’ Unions across the country are denouncing the Trump Administration’s approach to the issue as ill-advised, life-threatening and unjust.

And - they’re vowing to do something about it.

Republican President Donald Trump has demanded schools reopen in the Fall and his Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has adopted his position, but there has been little effort by the Federal Government to provide any of the gargantuan resources that would be necessary to reopen schools in accordance with Public Health Guidelines. 

In April, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) issued a lengthy plan for safe school reopening: With standards based on measurable declines in the prevalence of COVID-19; testing; tracing’ Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); Procedures for physical distancing in schools; and Community investments to enable schools to work in concert with Public Health Measures. 

Three months later, the country is experiencing booming infection rates and meeting none of the Union’s suggested standards, but the Trump Administration seems determined to reopen schools - regardless.

“If Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos ‘actually listened to what we were saying - we were trying to reopen schools so we could meet the needs of kids,’” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “Instead, ‘they decide to be all reckless.’” 

Now, Local and Regional Teachers’ Unions are engaged in fevered negotiations with school districts over reopening plans.

Results, predictably, vary depending on the locality.

In Los Angeles, the school district announced that it will begin the year with virtual instruction only - a decision made in consultation with the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) Union, which famously went on Strike in 2019 - not just for better pay, but also for smaller class sizes and Nurses in schools.

In a poll released last week, 84% of UTLA Members said they did not think schools should reopen for physical classes next month, considering the on-going Coronavirus surge in California.

It is clear the L.A. School District respects the teachers’ Union’s power.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz notes the Union called for a protective shutdown of schools on March 12th and the school district announced a shutdown the next day.

Now, the Union is calling for a broad set of social justice issues - structural racism in health care, mental health care, defunding the police and Paid Sick Leave Policies, among other things - to be addressed in concert with the basic safety issues of reopening schools.

It is a “bargaining for the common good” approach for the Coronavirus Crisis Era. 

Meanwhile, Teachers in Florida are suing the state to block an Emergency Order requiring schools to open next month with in-person instruction.

They say, with the surge of Coronavirus cases, the order violates a provision in the Florida Constitution requiring the state to ensure schools are operated safely.

The Emergency Order, issued this month by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, says all school districts "must open brick and mortar schools at least five days a week for all students."

The order says the final decision on whether to reopen schools rests with local superintendents and school boards, but it suggests funding may depend on it.

The districts that submit reopening plans approved by the state will receive full funding.

In a lawsuit filed in Miami, the Florida Education Association (FEA), joined by Teachers and parents, says the Department of Education order defies recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on reopening schools safely.

Besides Corcoran, the lawsuit also names the Florida Board of Education, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez as defendants.

To Continue Reading In These Times’ Labor News Coverage On The FEA’s Florida Lawsuit, Go To:

To Continue Reading NPR’s Labor News Coverage On Teachers’ Unions Being The Last Line Of Defense, Go To:


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