WE’VE GOT OURS. TOUGH SH!T FOR YOU
Randi and Lily are just being selfish. Yes, we had good health insurance when I was teaching. We had good prescription insurance. It cost a lot, but we were a large insured group so we got so-called “Cadillac” plans for less than it would have cost us individually. It included vision and dental, something that isn’t included in Medicare and my Medicare supplement.
But, employer-based health care leaves people behind. It’s unfair. It leaves some people without any coverage at all. And we’re the only advanced nation on the planet that still allows a large chunk of our population to be unprotected in the event of an expensive (and they’re all expensive) medical emergency.
Around a half-million Americans declare bankruptcy because of medical bills each year. Some of them might even have insurance, but it’s not always enough. Often a serious illness means loss of work…and loss of work means loss of health insurance. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, more than 30 million American workers are unemployed and without employer-based health insurance. No other country would let this happen to its citizens. It’s cruel. It’s selfish. And it’s unnecessary.
To protect those “Cadillac” plans, the presidents of the nation’s two largest teachers unions have doubled down on American selfishness and rejected a single-payer plan as a plank in the Democratic Party platform. It’s a “We’ve got ours. Tough sh!t for you” plan worthy of the Republican Party.
Weingarten has been an outspoken opponent of national health care for a while. Like other national union leaders she says she wants to protect the health care her AFT and other union locals have bargained.
Now that 30 million newly unemployed workers are without employer provided health insurance, this defense rings hollow…
Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist and former health commissioner for the city of Detroit, argued that the coronavirus outbreak demonstrates why the country needs a single-payer system like Medicare for All rather than just an expansion of the Affordable Care Act.
“We have an opportunity to go bigger because this moment demands it,” El-Sayed said, arguing for an amendment that was eventually defeated.
What a time to vote against national healthcare.
So out of touch.
Guess which students are most susceptible to COVID-19.
Then guess which students have the fewest resources in their schools.
It is not shocking that Black parents, and many other parents of color, are choosing the lives of their children over going to school. Children in the United States are more likely than kids in other countries to have underlying health conditions, such as asthma, that place them at an increased risk of becoming severely sick with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black children suffer from asthma at more than double the rate of white children.
Here’s a good idea. Let’s use science and facts to plan how we will go back to in-person education this year. It’s important for kids to have live interaction with a teacher. Young children may not be as susceptible to the dangerous aspects of COVID-19. But older children and adults in school buildings are susceptible to the illness. What’s more, they are more likely than young kids to spread the disease. Some children and adults have preexisting conditions that make exposure to the coronavirus a life-threatening experience. Some children and adults have parents and grandparents living in their homes who would be threatened by the virus.
There’s no reason to scold teachers for their very real fear about going back to school. There’s every reason to believe that teachers, staff members, and administrators know more about how to teach — even how to teach during a pandemic — than politicians.
I can only speak for myself: I am not yet ready to abandon the idea that we can go back to school safely this year. I think it’s going to take a lot of work and more resources than we’re currently talking about at the national level. I also think we are going to be very hard pressed to make this work by Labor Day. But if we can get the virus under control outside of school, get together the necessary resources, and make an honest assessment of the risks and rewards… OK.
But we’re not going to get that honest assessment unless and until we stop thinking that magical plans will allow us to reopen schools in a few weeks. I know this will come as a shock to many pundits, but people who actually work in schools have almost certainly already thought of your “creative” solution to the problem. The likely reason they aren’t implementing it is because they don’t have the luxury of not questioning the very real issues you didn’t address in your op-ed.
If that sounds harsh, I’m sorry — but lives are literally at stake.
The President and his billionaire Secretary of Education are either too stupid to see the difference between the way the US and successful countries have handled the pandemic, or they don’t care. Personally, I think it’s at least a little of both.
The few countries that have successfully reopened their schools have lowered the incidence of COVID-19 in their countries so that their children and school workers will be safe. We haven’t.
The few countries that have successfully reopened their schools have universal health care so that citizens who need health care don’t have to worry about losing their health care if they lose their job. We don’t.
The few countries that have successfully reopened their schools have included teachers and other school workers in the planning so that reopening is done by people who know what goes on in a school. We haven’t.
Opening schools when we’re still seeing a thousand deaths a day is just stupid.
Each of these European countries provide universal health care and have a nationwide pandemic plan. To the extent that decisions are delegated to local levels, as they are in Germany, there is national coordination.
Teacher unions have typically been involved in planning school reopenings in Europe, which is critical, since teachers are the most viable enforcers of new safety rules. “There’s a great deal of trust in authorities because we know that we can always sit down and talk about things,” Dorte Lange of the Danish Union of Teachers said.
The public school infrastructure in the US is so inadequate in some places that a safe return to school during the pandemic is impossible. Teachers want to teach their students, but they don’t want to risk their lives to do it.
To safely return, educators want personal protective equipment (PPE) for every staff member and student. They want hand-washing supplies. They want safely ventilated classrooms, fully staffed custodial and deep-cleaning crews, and school transportation plans that don’t include crowded buses. “One thing that could help is if we had a plan to resume safely,” said Miami high school teacher Nyree Washington. “We do not have this plan.”
Educators like Washington’s Rieker know what it’s like to be in a classroom with 27 or 28 fourth graders. “A kid needs to blow their nose, sharpen their pencil. How do you do these things and stay socially distanced?” she asks. “I have individual desks in my classroom, but some of my coworkers have tables. We don’t even have desks for everyone.”
PRIVATIZATION: PPP MONEY TO CHARTER SCHOOLS
There’s no doubt about it. Charter schools are not “public schools.”
Public schools have been prohibited from getting small business loans from PPP funding. Charter schools have not. Public schools are forced to use the money received from the cash-strapped state for their operation. Charter schools are raking in money meant for small businesses as well as using money from the state.
Here is a link to a list of charter schools that received Small Business Administration PPP funding.
On July 24, 2020, I posted about ProPublica’s PPP loan search engine, which allows the public to easily investigate PPP loans disbursed to any small business or nonprofit, including scores of charter schools, private schools, and other education-related businesses and nonprofits.
Hey, Indiana…do you remember when we, as voters, chose to divert millions of education dollars from our public schools to school vouchers for mostly religious schools?
Neither do I…because we didn’t. The legislature, under the direction of Governor Mitch Daniels, decided to move public money from the schools that 90% of our students attend to religious institutions.
We didn’t vote for it. We didn’t approve it. We didn’t choose it.
Although Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican officials believe that vouchers are an issue worth pursuing to gain support, the voting record on this matter shows otherwise: Vouchers are not popular with voters. AU has compiled a list of ballot initiatives from states all over the country dating back to the 1960s that planned to use public taxpayer funding to support private schools. In all of these instances, voters rejected voucher schemes, proving that policies like school vouchers actually have very little support among the American electorate. (In Arizona, voters went to the polls in 2018 and rolled back an expansion to that state’s voucher plan that had been approved by the legislature – 65 percent to 35 percent.)
The National Coalition for Public Education, an umbrella organization of defenders of public education that AU co-chairs, points out that there are several reasons why people do not support school vouchers and why vouchers are actually largely ineffective at helping to improve the education system. For instance, school vouchers take needed assistance away from public school systems to fund the private education of a much smaller population of students.
Private school vouchers also do not save taxpayers dollars in the long run. The number of students using private school vouchers to leave public schools is so minimal that it does not affect the operating costs of public schools. Therefore, public schools are only losing out on necessary funding at the hands of the voucher system. In addition, many pro-voucher supporters have argued that they help give education options and opportunities to low-income students. However, as NCPE notes, studies have found that “private school vouchers do not adequately serve low-income students.” This is because the price of private school tuition and fees often exceed the amount of the voucher itself.