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Wisconsin teachers unions urge online-only start

(NBC15)
Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 10:43 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The leaders of five large Wisconsin teachers unions are telling state officials that public school students should not return to the classroom to start this school year.

In a letter, the heads of Madison Teachers Incorporated, Green Bay Education Association, Kenosha Education Association, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, and Racine Educators Union called a virtual reopening “necessary,” citing an increase in coronavirus cases across the state.

“Our students need safe, equitable, well-resourced classrooms staffed with highly qualified educators, so they can learn,” they wrote.

The union chiefs pointed to a study by the Kaiser Foundation that found a quarter of educators fall into a high-risk category for COVID-19. They also argued that districts serving mostly minority communities are further at risk because of “disproportionate impact of illness and death... on Black and Brown communities.”

The letter also noted a CDC report that determined virtual learning offered the lowest risk of spreading coronavirus, while the highest danger would be reopening the schools entirely.

The union heads added that all of its 10,000-plus public education workers do want to return to in-class learning, but do not feel it is safe with COVID-19 not contained in Wisconsin.

The letter was sent to Governor Tony Evers, the Wisconsin Legislature, Department of Health Services Interim Secretary Andrea Palm, and Wisconsin State Superintendent Dr. Carolyn Stanford-Taylor.

The signers of the letter were:

  • 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

Read the full letter here

July 20, 2020

Governor Tony Evers

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm

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.

Sincerely,

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

Coalition of urban education associations

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