It has been a jarring week for our democracy. Last Wednesday, we saw a mob overtake the US Capital in an effort to subvert certification of the November election results and the transition of power.
This was the culmination of four years of hate and misinformation coming from our nation’s highest office. And it once again illustrated the racist reality of our country’s policing practices. We are all still processing what occurred and what it means—thank you for the important role you have in helping your students do the same.
Last Wednesday morning, we also found reason to hope. The historic victories for Senators Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in Georgia are the result of years of organizing by Black leaders like Stacy Abrams, and so many others.
The new landscape in DC creates the possibility of real progress toward economic justice, protecting the climate, and reversing racism in all the ways it is built into our society.
And starting January 20th, we also have new hope that our nation’s elected leaders will enact policies that will get this pandemic under control, and will give public schools the support we will need for a safe return to in-person instruction.
Unfortunately, Oregon is moving in the wrong direction.
Governor Brown has abandoned the metrics that have guided the state’s effort to safely re-open schools for in-person instruction, and that have been a key strategy in keeping community spread relatively low. Now she is pressuring districts to open schools in-person by February 15, regardless of community spread, and despite the fact that the disease continues to have an outsized impact on communities of color.
The Governor’s announcement has generated an onslaught of public pressure to open schools immediately.
Last week, we surveyed our members to find out what you would do if you were directed to return to live instruction before a vaccine is available to all school staff. While the survey was only open for a day and a half, we got a tremendous response—2,927 unique participants, or about 84% of members. The results speak for themselves:
- 27.5% said that they would take a medical or family leave to protect their health or the health of someone they care for.
- 41% said they would refuse to go back or take other direct action.
- Only 9% said they would go back without objection.
We also disaggregated the data by grade-level and by race. There was little difference in the answers of our early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school teachers. However, educators of color were substantially more likely to say they would refuse to go back or take a medical leave (76.4%) than were white educators (66.5%).
Clearly, the District will not be able to open schools fully until there are conditions that make educators feel safe.
In the meantime, we are working with the District to formalize and enact agreements to create LIPI (Limited In-Person Instruction) opportunities for students. Read more about that below.
Things continue to change quickly, and we all are anxious for a time when we can once again see our students and each other live and in person.
But the safety of our members, as well as our students and their families, will always be the central concern of PAT. We will not let political expediency trump science in the debate over a return to in-person instruction.