Credit: Allison Shelley for American Education
A second-grade teacher helps a student with a writing assignment in a hybrid classroom.

As the pandemic continues to spread in a seemingly uncontrolled fashion, California’s leading teachers’ unions have affirmed their opposition to school openings without significantly more safety precautions, further complicating hopes for bringing more students back to school for in-person instruction.

Currently, almost all students attend schools in counties in the state’s Tier One “purple” list.  That means schools are prohibited from providing in-person instruction unless they were already doing so before the county went on the purple list, are providing instruction to small groups of students with special needs, or through special waivers for K-6 students.

However, the California Teachers Association on Wednesday sent a letter to lawmakers saying that even those schools in purple counties that are already offering in-person instruction should not be allowed to do so. “CTA continues to believe that schools in communities at Purple Tier levels of transmission and risk should not be open or reopen,” a letter from CTA president E. Toby Boyd and other top CTA leaders said.

The union continues to press the state to come up with what it and the superintendents of some of the state’s largest districts are calling “common standards” for testing and other health requirements that would apply to all districts throughout the state before they’d be allowed to reopen. Standards along those lines are nowhere on the horizon.

“Let us be clear, no one wants to be back in our classrooms with our students where we know they learn best, more than educators,” the CTA letter said. “Safety, however, should not be a relative or subjective term up to regional or political interpretation.”

On Thursday, the California Federation of Teachers urged its members to write to Gov. Gavin Newsom and other lawmakers to oppose at least five elements of  a recently introduced bill (Assembly Bill 10) that would require schools that are not in the purple tier to reopen on or after March 1, 2021, as long as they are not in the purple tier.

“We miss our students and want to be back in our classrooms,” the action alert declared. “But we cannot support our schools being reopened in a manner that is unsafe for students, teachers, staff or their families.”

In its letter to the Legislature, the CTA also indicated that it had concerns about “several aspects” of the bill, but did not spell out what they were.

The teachers’ unions are not the only ones to have expressed dire concerns about opening schools for in-person instruction. The superintendents of Los Angeles Unified and other large urban districts have expressed similar concerns, as have the mayors of several of the state’s largest cities. Just this week, United Teachers Los Angeles was joined by dozens of other labor unions in Los Angeles County calling on the Board of Supervisors to declare a four-week “circuit breaker” in January by imposing what they call a “true lockdown”  by closing all “non-essential” retail businesses.  They suggested that would improve conditions for opening schools for in-person instruction.

Union opposition comes amid rising frustration among many parents with the seemingly endless days of distance learning. Concerns are also deepening in response to reports from many school districts about sharp increases in low or failing grades among high school students compared to last fall before the pandemic upended education in the state. This is especially the case for many Black, Latino and low-income student students, who are being disproportionately affected by distance learning, the principal mode of instruction for most students in California.

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  1. James Wolfe 8 months ago8 months ago

    As usual, asked a simple question and got a run around answer.

  2. Julie Gleason 8 months ago8 months ago

    “Let us be clear, no one wants to be back in our classrooms with our students where we know they learn best, more than educators.” False! Every parent who has a child suffering the psychological, emotional and damage of not being in class with their peers wants their child back in our classrooms more than these teachers. The teachers' unions and any teachers who oppose a return to school now are playing … Read More

    “Let us be clear, no one wants to be back in our classrooms with our students where we know they learn best, more than educators.” False! Every parent who has a child suffering the psychological, emotional and damage of not being in class with their peers wants their child back in our classrooms more than these teachers. The teachers’ unions and any teachers who oppose a return to school now are playing political football with the health and wellbeing of our children. Absolutely disgraceful!

  3. Tyler Daniel RaabeR. 9 months ago9 months ago

    The union doesn’t care about their students. The only reason they are demanding this is because they want to get paid without having to go back to work.

    Replies

    • Diana A Freeman 8 months ago8 months ago

      I retired from teaching (Special education) in July 2020. (it was not due to Covid-19, it had been planned) That said, I had a taste of teaching from "home" from March through June. In addition to Zoom and google classroom, I ended driving to students homes to drop off supplies (at the door, no contact), ordering materials, packaging and mailing packets of materials to students. Our administrators required us to contact parents daily. We were … Read More

      I retired from teaching (Special education) in July 2020. (it was not due to Covid-19, it had been planned) That said, I had a taste of teaching from “home” from March through June. In addition to Zoom and google classroom, I ended driving to students homes to drop off supplies (at the door, no contact), ordering materials, packaging and mailing packets of materials to students. Our administrators required us to contact parents daily. We were also required to take three online training classes a week which took at least 3 hours each and pass a test. It was more work than being in my classroom.

      You seem to think that the teachers are just sitting around collecting a paycheck, not so! The key here is safety. Some districts have been great about making sure to manage class size reduction schedules, providing classrooms with hand sanitizer, Plexiglas- partitions, face masks, etc. Unfortunately not all districts run the same way.

      My stepson and his wife are teachers and also have two teenagers at home (they would love for them to be in school too!). It has not been easy for them. They too would prefer to be back in their classroom teaching as long as safety measures are put in place. Once again, you and other people want to unfairly bash the teachers. Keep in mind that many teachers are parents too!

  4. Jeff salisbury 9 months ago9 months ago

    Today the CDC announced that it is safe to reopen our schools yet we continue to deny our children what they desperately need. What is our excuse now???

  5. Jennifer Saxelby 9 months ago9 months ago

    School choice now. Make the public school monopoly compete with private schools. Teachers unions have too much power in the state.

  6. Janny 10 months ago10 months ago

    Why does the CTA want to shut down schools that are successfully open? It’s making them look bad. We yanked our kids out of public schools and placed them in private this year. What a world of difference between the two. Public schools (not all but most) keep finding ways to stay closed while private schools keep moving things forward and pivot regularly to stay open. We couldn’t be happier with our private schools’ ingenuity … Read More

    Why does the CTA want to shut down schools that are successfully open? It’s making them look bad. We yanked our kids out of public schools and placed them in private this year. What a world of difference between the two. Public schools (not all but most) keep finding ways to stay closed while private schools keep moving things forward and pivot regularly to stay open.

    We couldn’t be happier with our private schools’ ingenuity and dedication to in-person (and superior) leaning. Public schools are losing families like ours that have supported them financially and with volunteerism for years.

  7. tomm 10 months ago10 months ago

    Third paragraph, the CTA wants schools now open but in purple areas to be shut down!? These are schools who took the initiative to get the waivers, maintain a track record of keeping the infection rate in their schools the same or lower than the general population, and doing what is best for the kids per CDC and Great Barrington analysis. Why does the Governor and the CTA think they know better? … Read More

    Third paragraph, the CTA wants schools now open but in purple areas to be shut down!? These are schools who took the initiative to get the waivers, maintain a track record of keeping the infection rate in their schools the same or lower than the general population, and doing what is best for the kids per CDC and Great Barrington analysis. Why does the Governor and the CTA think they know better?

    For sure the CTA doesn’t like the schools getting kids to classes and making other schools look really lazy and inept. Going forward, can predict that those kids will surge ahead of the remote learning kids this year. Those same kids can enjoy summer vacation when so many other kids will be in year-round school. So mismanaged.

    Replies

    • LB 10 months ago10 months ago

      I totally agree. Back off the schools that are doing it successfully.

  8. Jim 10 months ago10 months ago

    It’s a real wakeup call for parents concerned about their children that they need to exit the public schools. For me, Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) and Mandatory Reteaching, drove me out of LAUSD to a different public school system. UTLA thinks it has a monopoly even though its share drops year-by-year. I strongly suspect we are at an inflection point where the public re-evaluates our relationship with public employee unions.

    Replies

    • Tomm 10 months ago10 months ago

      We moved our kids private as well Jim. Temporary I hope. What did it for us was last spring and the deliberate decision by the public schools to cruise and not even try to advance the kids education. Meanwhile, private schools powered on until the end of the school year. Not ok with us. A voucher system would help lessen this behavior as it has where implemented.

      • LB 10 months ago10 months ago

        Yes, private school all the way!