Cepeda: Coronavirus finally proves that teachers are essential
After years of educators staging massive walkouts and lobbying school boards to improve their dismal working conditions, it finally took the coronavirus to succeed in proving that the humble teacher is essential to a functioning American economy.
Parents across the country are at their wit’s end trying to balance work, running a household and educating their children. Many have come to the conclusion that it’s all too much, and they have closed virtual school and e-learning for their kids, citing a lack of resources, time or mental energy during a global pandemic.
President Donald Trump has nudged state governors to encourage schools to open up in order to start getting back to “normal” amid the reality that — until parents have a safe place where children can spend the day — there’s no way they could return to full-time work and get the economy revving again.
Teachers find themselves at the center of a conversation that rarely includes their voices. But as an educator myself, I can tell you that it’s weird finally being considered essential at a moment when some families are throwing in the towel on e-school while others are fretting that their lack of art supplies, computers or internet access will make their children fall even further behind.
Both of these outcomes are bad, but only one reduces education to child care.
Most people understand that there is far more to the teacher-student bond than just safety, activities and a meal in the early afternoon. Still, the reality is that schools’ daylong services provide a safe place for children to spend their time while parents work. And without that place, things will never return to “normal.”
In fact, an estimated “32% of [the] workforce has someone in their household who is under 14. Thus, 50 million Americans must consider child care obligations when returning to work,” according to economic researchers on premarket.com, the blog of the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
And while many families have a household with an adult who could watch children during the day, the researchers estimated that 11 percent of the workforce do not (or 17.5 million workers).
“The longer school closures persist into the recovery of the economy, the greater will be the burden faced by those workers with young children and no obvious child care options,” authors Jonathan Dingel, Christina Patterson and Joseph Vavra, wrote in the blog post. “Discussions of returning to work ought to include discussion of returning to school.”
The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teacher’s union, already has a plan for reopening schools safely. The plan includes maintaining social distancing guidelines in classrooms, enforcing smaller class sizes, splitting scheduling and staggering meal and bus times.
But the plans truly do hinge on being able to provide medical-grade masks for school health professionals and nonmedical-grade masks for everyone else. They also rely on the ability to disinfect schools on a regular basis, provide hand-washing and sanitizing stations for students and teachers, and have strict protocols in place to test, trace and isolate new cases of COVID-19 quickly.
That seems implausible even for schools in well-financed districts, and it reads like fiction for the kinds of schools I’ve taught in. I’ve worked in low-income schools where the sinks in the classrooms don’t work, the water in parts of the school contains unacceptably high levels of lead, and the soap in the students’ bathroom has been taken away because the dispensers have been broken and abused too many times by misbehaving kids.
As a teacher, I want school to open back up as soon as possible. I’m even hoping there’s summer school for those who want or need it in order to be able to succeed in the fall.
But it’s going to take a lot of money to prepare school districts, particularly those at the lower income levels, for the beginning of the 36棋牌-2021 school year. Especially when you take into account that public health experts think that a critical mass of COVID-19 cases will re-emerge in the fall.
The question is: Will those who have the power to provide the money needed to open up schools safely believe that they are investing in students, teachers and education — or in day care?