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In a letter sent Monday, the elected presidents of educators’ unions in Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine urged Governor Tony Evers, State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm to act quickly to ensure the safety of Wisconsin’s public school students and workers.
Dear Governor Evers, Dr. Stanford Taylor, and Secretary Palm,
Strong and immediate action to keep Wisconsin students safe is needed now from Governor Evers and the Wisconsin Legislature, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary, Andrea Palm, and Wisconsin State Superintendent Dr. Carolyn Stanford Taylor.
The Coronavirus is surging across Wisconsin. Wisconsin has the second-fewest number of restrictions in place to contain the spread of the virus and has regularly seen new records over the past several days. Since May, the CDC has cautioned that full reopening of schools would be “highest risk,” and that in both K-12 and higher education settings, the more people interact, “and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread.” The “lowest risk,” the guidelines say, would be for students and teachers to attend virtual-only classes. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report indicating that one in every four educators falls in a high-risk category making them more vulnerable to Covid-19. And as districts serving majority populations of students and families of color, we cannot ignore the disproportionate impact of illness and death that Covid-19 has had on Black and Brown communities.
According to the CDC, “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age. Among some racial and ethnic minority groups, including non-Hispanic Black persons, Hispanics and Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, evidence points to higher rates of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 than among non-Hispanic white persons.”
Our students need safe, equitable, well-resourced classrooms staffed with highly qualified educators, so they can learn. The classroom is where every single educator wants to be this fall, but with no containment of Wisconsin COVID-19 cases, a virtual reopening for public schools is necessary.
Our fates as Wisconsinites are linked together. We represent over 10,000 public education workers from across the state, responsible for educating over 160,000 public school students, and we are calling on you to guarantee a science-informed, safe, and equitable school reopening for the 2020-2021 school year.
Justin Delfosse, President, Green Bay Education Association (GBEA)
Tanya Kitts-Lewinski, President, Kenosha Education Association (KEA)
Andy Waity, President, Madison Teachers Incorporated (MTI)
Amy Mizialko, President, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA)
Angelina Cruz, President, Racine Educators United