Tell Governor DeSantis – Put People First, Save Our Schools

July 22, 2020 / Comments (0)

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We are educational stakeholders from all across the state of Florida, from early child educational professionals all the way through higher education and non instructional support employees, as well as parents, community members and teachers.

Sign the Petition Now

We are calling for:

  • Distance learning or delayed opening until it is safe to return to in person classes. (14 days of declining cases in a row and positivity rate under 5%)
  • Recognize the authority of local school boards as THE decision makers about reopening, training and support without fear of intimidation, penalties and threats of defunding.
  • School Districts continue to cover ALL employees wages and benefits as budgeted.
  • Work with community partners for the expansion of meal programs, providing safe havens during working hours, after school activities, health care access (including COVID-19 testing) and other safety-net services for students, families and staff.
  • Full support for vulnerable students, including access to safe havens during working hours, equal access to technology, as well as academic and social/emotional support.
  • Additional support for increased safety measures and increased sanitization to protect all students, staff and community members.
  • Additional training on new safety protocols and technology needed for virtual learning as well as training on how to protect against the spread of COVID for all impacted staff and families.
  • A long term investment in rebuilding Florida’s education system to protect against future pandemics.
  • A long term plan to address the inequities (racial, socioeconomic, gender/orientation, ability) embedded in the Florida educational system.

Why is this important?

As we reopen our schools, we must also support the safety and economic stability of our local communities by ensuring that frontline workers are valued with living wages, family health care benefits, and access to quality, affordable child care and education. We must take this opportunity not just to recover from the COVID-19 crisis but to reset the course of investment in education.

We must also begin to tear-down the systemic racism that denies all children a quality education and make fundamental changes to ensure all students and employees can learn and work in safe, clean, and supportive schools – now and into the future. To do so, plans to reopen our schools must be guided by these principles:

Distance Learning Until It is Safe to Reopen
Health experts recommend 14 days of declining cases in a row and a positivity rate under 5% before resuming school in person. All the school districts that do not have low community spread of COVID and adequate resources for a full reopening should be able to continue virtual learning. We call upon local counties and the state government to support virtual learning with community resources and technology support.

Maintain Local Control
Local school boards have the constitutional power to make educational decisions for their communities and should be free to do so without threats or punishments from state and federal authorities. School boards are uniquely suited to make the best decisions for their communities, as they are elected leaders who work in conjunction with local organizations to best serve their community. Local school boards should work with a panel of local health experts during the reopening process to make reopening decisions without interference from the State government.

Cover ALL employees wages and benefits as budgeted
All workers are essential. As soon as it is safe, School Districts will resume in person learning. In order to maintain continuity and availability of an experienced workforce, we are calling for the School Districts to continue to cover ALL employees wages and benefits as budgeted. The State should call on the Federal Government to allocate additional resources for School Districts struggling during this financial crisis.

Focus on our communities
The pandemic has laid bare how much working families depend on schools for food, child care, wellness and other basic needs. Community organizations that support families by becoming “safe havens” for children during working hours should be fully supported by the school district. As communities recover, schools must more fully engage parents and front line workers to identify neighborhood needs and appropriately target the expansion of meal programs, after school activities, health care access (including COVID-19 testing) and other safety-net services.

Ensure full support and resources for our most vulnerable students
The shutdown of our schools has disproportionately impacted students of color, immigrants and students with special needs, as well as the essential classified school workers who provide them with critical services. As School Districts are considering reopening plans, learning-loss and achievement gaps must be addressed immediately through expanded instructional assistance, full access to technology for all, counseling and other services that support vulnerable students. School boards need the flexibility to work with individual families and staff to best meet the needs of students, including home visits or other workable solutions.

Prioritize safety and cleanliness for all
In the past, the regular sanitizing of classrooms and campuses has long been regarded as a “wish-list” item for schools rather than a priority. As a result, maintenance budgets have suffered the greatest budget cuts, staffing levels have been drastically reduced and school districts have struggled to maintain basic cleanliness standards. We are calling for a SAFE reopening of schools, which will require proper protective equipment for all, training, testing and appropriate staffing of maintenance workers to protect students in every environment where they learn – from school buses to classrooms to playgrounds and cafeterias. CDC Guidelines should be fully adhered along with advice from local health experts.

Training and Technology Support
School Districts must invest in providing training on new safety protocols as well as training on new technology. The schools should also provide technology support for the staff who are expected to perform duties virtually during this time. Staff and families also need additional training on best practices to reduce the spread of COVID and other germs.

Recognize and respect the role of essential school workers
As most of the world has sheltered at home, custodians, food service workers and other essential school staff have risked exposure to COVID-19 to maintain the safety and well-being of our communities. But their recognition as heroes of the pandemic has also highlighted the low-wage, part-time nature of this predominantly Black and Brown workforce. As we rebuild our schools, we must also support the economic stability of our local communities by ensuring that the contributions of frontline workers are valued with living wages, family health care benefits, and access to quality, affordable child care.

Bold investment in our schools and communities
Our response to this unprecedented pandemic cannot be budget cuts and business as usual. We must challenge elected leaders to create a more progressive fiscal system. We must create new revenue streams where the wealthy pay their fair share and our budget is not balanced on the backs of school custodians, cafeteria workers, special education assistants and other essential employees. We must put equity for all of our students and staff at the center of our rebuilding efforts.