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AFT, Weingarten ‘All In” on In-Person Learning; Dissenting Teachers Pushing Back

“It’s a halfway step by Randi. It’s good that she took that step, but it’s ignoring the broader issue for members on the ground. They are being put in danger even with the CDC guidelines.” — Dr. Jerry Carbo, Pennsylvanians Against COVID-19 Campaign.

New York, NY – Dissenting teachers challenging the safety of in-person learning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remain skeptical about fully returning to the classroom later this fall, despite AFT President Randi Weingarten’s recent declaration that she’s “all in.”

Last September, about 100 angry teachers vehemently opposed to the City of New York’s haphazard plan to return to in-person learning delivered mock coffins to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s doorstep in Park Slope. They then proceeded to march on Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s apartment in Flatbush. 

That kind of fierce opposition mirrors the concerns of many teachers nationwide who have long maintained that administrators — many under political pressure to fully reopen schools — have been, and continue to be, insufficiently concerned about the health and safety of educators. 

“We’re losing the battle to keep schools virtual until it’s safe,” Dr. Jerry Carbo, professor, Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, told LaborPress back in March. 

Instead of being given proper Personal Protective Equipment [PPE],  Dr. Carbo, who is part of the “Pennsylvanians Against COVID-19 Campaign,” says educators in his state were given a “bucket and a bottle” and ordered back into the classroom. 

“Judy,” a retired special education teacher and cancer survivor in Minnesota, spoke to LaborPress on condition of anonymity. She says that hard-pressed teachers reaching out to her for guidance and support are “burned out and in tears, afraid to say anything to the administration — and they don’t trust the union president.”

Last week, Weingarten talked up a plan for a “renaissance in America’s Public Schools,”  insisting that the nation “must open schools in person for the fall” and “keep them open five days a week” in part to “create the normalcy that we crave.” 

This comes at a time when when COVID-19 continues to claim the lives of more than 500 people across the United State each day — and more than 30,000 new cases are still being recorded. 

Despite the push to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of the population — less then 40 percent of Americans have been vaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated are still at risk of being infected with COVID-19. And even if the likelihood of those infections resulting in hospitalization and death are extremely low — it remains unclear to what extent those infected people might be able to transmit the virus to the unvaccinated. 

It’s also important to note that aerosol transmission of the virus can occur across a distance of 27 feet. According to a study cited by the National Nurses Untied — the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the country — approximately half of COVID-19 aerosol transmissions are due to asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infections. 

Dr. Carbo contends that the AFT’s “Renaissance” plan to get back to regular in-person learning in the fall just doesn’t go far enough to safeguard teachers.

“It’s a halfway step by Randi,” he said. “It’s good that she took that step, but it’s ignoring the broader issue for members on the ground. They are being put in danger even with the CDC guidelines.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually relaxed mask mandates for vaccinated individuals on May 13.

That action prompted Governor Andrew Cuomo to proclaim earlier this week — “Let’s get back to life. If you are vaccinated, you are safe. No masks. No social distancing.”

New York emerged as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak early in the ongoing pandemic before being surpassed by California. In contrast to Governor Cuomo, California Governor Gavin Newsom says that his state will wait on adopting the CDC’s new guidelines. 

Former Texas school teacher Micheal Hull resigned three months into the school year. He told LaborPress that too many national labor leaders have been playing “patty cake with the powers that be” and that teachers have been given a false choice — “die or work.” Hull thinks he knows why teachers were being pushed back into the classroom throughout the pandemic.

 “This was all about a drive for profits,” Hull said. “They wanted [workers] back and needed a place for kids to be dropped off.” 

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