MTA tells state officials: Stop trying to bully communities on remote learning

MTA tells state officials: Stop trying to bully communities on remote learning

The MTA issued the following statement on Wednesday, Oct. 28:

It is time for Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley and Education Secretary James Peyser to stop making assertions that are disconnected from the reality that COVID-19 remains a serious — and growing — threat to our students, our schools and our communities.

Riley, backed by Peyser, recklessly declared at a legislative hearing on Oct. 27 that public schools should maintain or move even more toward in-person learning — even in cities and towns where coronavirus infection rates remain persistently high or are rising. This follows Riley’s bullying of districts that rationally chose to start the year remotely despite facing threats of meaningless and time-wasting “audits.”

The MTA believes strongly that educators and the communities they serve should stick to the plans that they have worked on with relevant stakeholders and bargained to implement. The state guidance issued in August has not changed — and that guidance calls in large measure for remote learning in communities designated “red” for COVID-19 spread. Fortunately, neither Riley nor Peyser has the authority to compel communities to take steps that compromise the public safety. Decisions about how learning happens are up to the educators and their unions in negotiation with their school committees.

We have always questioned Governor Charlie Baker’s map-coding scheme because it fails to recognize that viral infections can easily spread among communities. We remain opposed to this system and its results. Among other failings, it ignores the fact that any school typically employs educators from multiple cities and towns.

Governor Baker and his administration first and foremost need to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. Part of that work involves supporting communities in their efforts to minimize the spread of the virus.

Every single one of our members is exhausted and stressed from providing a quality education in the safest way possible. That has often involved doing in-person and remote education at the same time. Our members would like nothing more than to be back with their students in their school buildings — but only when it is safe.

If a community decides that remote learning is the best way to ensure the health of students, families and educators, the governor, the commissioner and the education secretary need to respect that rather than resort to trying to bully its residents into compliance.