The State released reopening guidelines impacting the Commonwealth’s largest school district without the input of stakeholders who are on the ground in Boston, including teachers, students and parents. We were not at the table for the creation of the DESE/BPS interventions MOU, and we were not at the table during the creation of these guidelines. Regardless, we are reviewing them closely with rank and file BTU members for both reactions and input as we continue to advocate for a safe and equitable reopening for the fall.
As teachers, paraprofessionals, school nurses, psychologists, guidance counselors, related service providers, therapists and substitute teachers, we are on the frontlines interacting every day with students, assessing their well-being, and assisting them with both educational and basic needs. By excluding us from the discussion, DESE is discounting our experiences and expertise as professional educators and, for many of us, also as parents, while ignoring the realities of those who will be affected the most by these guidelines. We are hopeful that our exclusion in the previous planning phase is quickly remedied and that our concerns about this guidance are heard.
Centering reopening around equity, including racial equity, is critical, and all plans must ensure adequate resources are allocated to communities where they are most needed. Additional funding commitments must supplement funding from the Student Opportunities Act and the Cares Act, not in lieu of. While the additional funds in the new guidance are welcomed, they are not sufficient.
These legislations were designed to help communities being harmed most by the spread of the coronavirus, but these are also the same communities that were already under resourced due to chronic underfunding at the state and federal levels. Our low-income students, immigrant students, and students of color are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and any funding decisions need to be made with those factors in mind if we are to diminish existing inequities, not further exacerbate them.
We will continue to review the State’s final school reopening guidelines with our union educators, parents, students and community members. We continue to strongly advocate for meaningful collaboration between the State and all stakeholders — particularly those closest to the impacts — to have a better and more effective plan moving forward.