Bringing students fully back to school this fall could “put everything in jeopardy,” according to leaders of major state and local teachers unions who blasted reopening guidelines they say are being developed without their input.
“We are at a turning point,” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said. “If we move too fast and if we open schools physically too soon, we put everything in jeopardy.”
Members of the three major teachers’ unions — MTA, the Boston Teachers Union and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts — blasted the state and federal push to resume in-person learning this fall as “backwards” and slammed reopening plans that have been issued so far for having “huge gaps” during an hourlong livestream about education issues with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday evening.
“The current plan is backwards. We cannot bring all of our students back in person in September on the first day of school as much as we want to,” Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang said. “What we need to do is have a thoughtful approach where we have to get remote learning right. … It’s likely there’s going to be another surge, and we cannot just scramble overnight to try to get remote learning right like we did in the spring.”
The Baker administration and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have asked districts to develop three plans for the fall that include in-person, hybrid and remote learning models — with an emphasis on the former, if possible.
Union leaders are calling for a phased reopening for schools that would focus on remote learning, include full funding for personal protective equipment and forgo MCAS testing in the upcoming academic year.
Najimy said Massachusetts’ education system is “hemorrhaging” — citing the more than 2,000 educators who have been laid off as unions brace for cuts within the University of Massachusetts system that could cost another 2,000 positions.
Warren called for $175 billion to “stabilize our public schools” — money that would be used to help districts to stave off layoffs and secure personal protective equipment. And she blasted the Trump administration’s all-out campaign to get kids across America back into classrooms this fall and threats to withhold federal funding for districts that don’t comply.
“We can’t just snap our fingers and reopen schools,” Warren said. “Choking off critical funding from them during a pandemic because they’ve made the tough decision to keep our students and our teachers safe is dangerous and foolish.”