Najimy: "We are 100 percent behind any of our locals that choose to reject this recommendation"
Statement by MTA President Merrie Najimy on August 21 Guidance by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Educators Working in School Buildings Under Remote Instruction Plans:
We reject the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s recommendation that teachers be required to conduct remote instruction from their school buildings regardless of safety. It is paternalistic and punitive and has no bearing on the quality of education that the real experts — the educators — provide so masterfully.
This new guidance is clearly designed to force local educators’ unions to agree to in-person learning regardless of the condition of the school buildings in their districts, indoor air quality, testing capabilities or area COVID-19 transmission rates.
"The guidance also demonstrates Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s fundamental lack of trust of educators, most of whom are women."
The guidance also demonstrates Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s fundamental lack of trust of educators, most of whom are women. While parents entrust the lives of their children to teachers and other staff, the commissioner’s guidance implies that educators are not capable of doing their jobs without being told how — and then supervised to make sure they follow orders. Let us not forget that millions of employees throughout the country — from Twitter to the State House to Riley’s own agency — have been working from home successfully throughout this crisis.
Although some educators may prefer to work out of their school buildings and have that right if it is safe, no one teaching remotely should be required to do so from a school building. The safety issues that are leading a growing number of districts to start the year remotely may include lack of adequate ventilation, lack of personal protective equipment and training on how to use it, lack of frequent testing and contact tracing, high rates of community transmission, or all of the above.
"As Governor Charlie Baker has said frequently, if you can work from home, you should work from home to reduce the transmission of coronavirus from one community to another."MTA President Merrie Najimy
Despite these unresolved problems, DESE’s guidance states that teachers should be allowed to bring their own children into these not-yet-safe school buildings to address their child care needs. This move to expose both students and staff must be reversed.
It is typical that educators travel to work in a town or city from dozens of different communities. In some districts, educators come from more than 100 different municipalities — and even from other states. When they travel, COVID-19 can travel with them or their children. The needless exposure of both students and staff is a reckless approach to child care that will put entire communities at risk.
As Governor Charlie Baker has said frequently, if you can work from home, you should work from home to reduce the transmission of coronavirus from one community to another. Educators can conduct remote learning remotely.
This guidance is the department’s recommendation — not a requirement. Like other changes in educators’ working conditions, it still has to be negotiated with the local unions. We are 100 percent behind any of our locals that choose to reject this recommendation.
Educators across the Commonwealth are focused on fully redesigning remote instruction to make it more effective, while pushing school districts and the state to make the changes needed to gradually return to in-person instruction. Commissioner Riley should be advocating for the resources that educators and districts need to achieve these goals rather than putting the thumbscrews to teachers to get them to return to school buildings before it is safe to do so.