July 6, 2020
Safe Schools Roadmap
Released last week, Governor Whitmer’s MI Safe Schools Roadmap provides a framework to help districts approach the challenge of maximizing learning while protecting students and employees. With Kym Wregglesworth, President of the Onaway Federation of Teachers, I served on the Advisory Council that provided recommendations to the Governor. The Advisory Council included public health experts as well as educators, elected officials, parents and students.
The Roadmap works to strike a balance between safety and the knowledge that nothing replaces a teacher interacting with students in a classroom. Decisions about whether in-person education is allowed will be linked to the phase a region is in based on the data points in the overall Michigan Safe Start Plan. While educators did tremendous work with distance learning from March through June, relying solely on distance learning has a disparate negative impact on low income students, people of color, and students with special needs, given the digital divide and other factors.
Districts are responsible for developing local plans based on the Governor’s requirements and recommendations. Nothing prevents a district from including more stringent requirements in their plan. It is imperative that local unions take on our responsibility of demanding that plans are developed with us. This should include a demand to bargain the impact of the plan and all mandatory subjects of bargaining, including issues of health and safety.
The Roadmap was not intended to, and could not possibly, answer every question. Working with special needs students, enforcement of policies, needed funding (the Governor has taken a step in the right direction by providing $256 million), shared or traveling staff are just some of the questions I know districts are wrestling with. All the more reason local unions must demand to be involved in all aspects of developing and implementing local plans.
ACTION NEEDED for HEROES Act! Contact your friends and family in key states and urge them to contact their US Senators!
As you know, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters are fighting for us in the US Senate to provide our state with the necessary federal relief money we need to deal with the costs of providing quality health care, protecting our communities and educating students during this pandemic. They are both champions of the HEROES Act, which will provide funding we badly need in Michigan and across the country. To have the greatest impact, we are asking our members to contact their friends and family who live in key states, including: Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado, North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Texas, and Kentucky.
Please ask your family and friends to use this link to Call their Senators and use these sample talking points:
- Congress has not done nearly enough to provide state and local governments with the funding they need to continue to deliver quality public services.
- If we see massive layoffs because we don’t get state and local aid, there will be extreme cuts to public services with catastrophic effects. Entire communities will suffer both from a public health and economic perspective.
- We can’t fight this pandemic or reopen the economy without strong public services and public service workers to deliver critical services.
- We continue to put our lives on the line every day to serve our communities. We do it because we love our jobs and care about helping people, and I don’t think anyone believes we deserve to be laid off.
- Please support the HEROES Act.
For more information on the HEROES Act, please check out these factsheets from AFT:
New Detroit’s Declaration of War on Racism
As a member of its Board, this morning I participated in New Detroit’s Press Conference advancing its Declaration of War on Racism. New Detroit is racial justice organization that organized following the 1967 Detroit rebellion. You can read and sign the pledge at https://www.newdetroit.org/declaration-of-war-on-racism/
Ladach Joins with Sen. Stabenow in Support of Schools
Dearborn Federation of Teachers Vice President Sue Ladach, joined Senator Debbie Stabenow at a press conference in support of the Senator’s Reopen Schools Safely Act. The bipartisan bill will establish a major federal grant program at the Department of Health and Human Services to help school districts and colleges reopen this fall. Thank you Senator Stabenow and thank you Sue.
Governor Appoints Coleman to Educator Advisory Council
Eva Coleman, the chair of the Michigan ACTS chapter at Cesar Chavez Academy, has been appointed by Governor Whitmer to the Governor’s Educator Advisory Council. Eva replaces Annie Markey from the Boggs School Michigan ACTS chapter and joins two other AFTers on the Council, Marcus Walton of the Detroit Teachers and Jeff Whittle of the Macomb ISD Paraprofessionals. Congratulations Eva!
Roundtable with Dr. Jill Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren
AFT is holding a roundtable with Dr. Jill Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on July 9, at 5 p.m. EDT. AFT will be livestreaming it on their Facebook page. AFT will have a conversation with them, along with three members, live on Facebook. Members will have the opportunity to submit questions during the event. To get involved in this roundtable click here, submit questions, share a story or comments for Dr. Biden or Sen. Warren.
Michigan School Siting Report Released
In 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency released national voluntary School Siting Guidelines, calling on states to develop and implement their own school siting and environmental cleanup standards. Here in Michigan a group of scholars, policy professionals, legislators, and members of non-governmental organizations and school communities — has worked to identify tools and best practices that could facilitate healthy school siting decisions. Our Member and Community Mobilizer, Nikhol Atkins participated as a Task Force Member. The work of this group culminated in a report. The ultimate goal of the report is to galvanize state lawmakers to develop a statewide school siting policy in Michigan that safeguards students’ health and well-being. Click on the following link for the report.
State of Michigan Encouraging all Workers to Get Free COVID-19 Testing
As businesses begin to reopen, workers are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test if they are at risk of exposure. This includes employees who are in contact with the public or work in industries that have seen outbreaks, such as farming, food processing, animal industries, etc., even if the employee does not have symptoms. Increased testing will help determine where the virus is so we can stop it before it spreads and safely re-engage the economy. The state has a goal to test 30,000 people per day.
Testing is NOT required for employees to return to work. Testing WILL help us keep workplaces and communities safer by stopping the spread.
David Hecker, President