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- America’s Reckoning: How Will Teachers Go Into Their Classrooms Tomorrow? - January 6, 2021
- Flip That Frown Upside Down – Teaching Like a Stoic - January 6, 2021
- How the Expiration of Emergency Paid Leave Will Cripple Schools - December 22, 2020
- Podcast Review: 1865 - November 2, 2020
- 10 Reasons Why American Reconstruction Is the Most Important Unit I’ll Teach This Year - October 26, 2020
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There are plenty of things we want to put behind us in 2020: the businesses that have struggled, folks who have lost their jobs, and, most notably, the friends and family we’ve lost in the pandemic. One thing we cannot leave behind in 2020 is emergency paid leave, but that is set to happen when the ball overlooking New York City’s Time Square drops to usher in 2021.
On Thursday, December 17th, my school district’s Director of Human Resources reminded our staff that the Emergency Paid Sick Leave provision of the Families First Coronovirus Response Act (FFCRA) is set to expire on December 31st. The act, which was passed by Congress as part of the omnibus recovery package, entitles an employee who is dealing with Covid-19 to have the following, per the U.S. Department of Labor:
- If an employee develops the disease or is forced to quarantine, they are provided upwards of 2 weeks of full paid time off
- If an employee has to care for a loved one who has acquired Covid-19, they are provided upwards of 2 weeks of paid time off at 2/3 their salary
- If an employee is in the throes of dealing with the disease, they have upwards of an additional 30 days of paid time off at 2/3 their salary
The fallout is going to rock schools in two ways:
1. TEACHER’S SICK DAYS
First, and most evident, is teachers are going to be put in a bind with their own sick days. It’s no secret that teachers have the dirtiest jobs in America, with a University of Arizona study noting a teacher is in contact with 500% more germs than the average worker. Combined with having one of the most social jobs on the planet and one of the most difficult to physically distance, teachers are primed for being exposed to Covid-19.
Though my district has enacted some of the best policies to help students learn in-person as much as possible while keeping them safe, Covid spread through my team of students. Prior to Thanksgiving break, I exhibited symptoms as well and had to be tested. It took me 4 days to get scheduled for a test here in Central Pennsylvania, and another 4 days until I had the results. Thankfully it only cost me 2 days of school, but in a normal week it would have been longer. And, starting in 2021, that time off I would have been forced to take simply because I teach kids (my Covid exposure to others is limited if not non-existent), would have been on my own time and dime.starting in 2021, that time off I would have been forced to take simply because I teach kids (my Covid exposure to others is limited if not non-existent), would have been on my own time and dime Click To Tweet
Additionally, teachers love kids and, despite not wanting to take work home with them, have their own children. My children’s daycare and classrooms have closed 3 times so far this school year, and if someone is required to take off to take care of them, it tends to be the person who makes less money than their partner (in my household, I’ll quote Justin Timberlake in saying “it’s gonna be me”). That’s going to be true in most households, and that’s also going to be sick time or unpaid time I’ll have to take to stay home with my boys.
To compound this situation, let’s remind ourselves that despite having negotiated many sick days, teachers don’t have them. Why? Let’s consider that 73% of teachers are women, many of whom are mothers. In becoming mothers, they used sick days when they took time off to raise their newborn or have taken or to continually care for children as they got sick with every ailment in the years pre-Covid. Even worse, as the Newark Patch reports, women are increasingly susceptible to choosing between work and kids, and that’s causing many to leave their classrooms.
2. PARENTS’ + STUDENTS’ SICK DAYS
Second, and more universally pressing, is parents are going to be placed in a bind with their own time off. Many parents don’t have the ability to choose between sick days and not. They instead will be worried about losing their job. That complicates things because if there is an exposure in the house, parents will be rolling the dice between going to work and sending their child to school and losing their income. Not surprising, the impacts on communities of color and working-class communities are exponentially worse.
As The Hill noted in the Congressional Budget Office’s findings, it’s no lie that the expense of emergency paid leave is big – upwards of $95 billion annually – but this provision of the FFCRA has helped reduce spread by at least 11%, if not more. Without emergency paid leave, more sick and exposed folks will be returning to work and, likewise, more sick and exposed kids will be sent to school.
The prediction? Rewind and remind yourself what it was like to teach in March — because without emergency paid leave, online learning is almost inevitable.Without emergency paid leave, more sick and exposed folks will be returning to work and, likewise, more sick and exposed kids will be sent to school. Rewind and remind yourself what it was like to teach in March -- because without it,… Click To Tweet
SO WHAT CAN TEACHERS DO?
I’m not a big proponent of doomsday scenarios, so reach out to your elected officials in the following manner:
- Contact your federal officials in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and demand that they extend Emergency Paid Sick Leave in the FFCRA they’re currently debating and will soon pass into law.
- If that fails, contact your state legislators and demand the same. Right now no states in the U.S. have such a provision.
- If that fails, reach out to your local leaders. Pittsburgh and the Plainview Independent School District of Texas each passed their own provision to take care of their own who come into contact with Covid. Your municipality and school district can do this just the same.
If you’ve never done this before, be kind, be succinct, and just tell your story and your suggested outcome. Here are some great advocacy tips from GUIDE, Inc. program and from the AAPCHO advocacy group.
This has been a year of very tough messages, but one bright spot for many of our nation’s youth has been the positive impact that teachers have had despite (and maybe because) of the Covid-19 impact. Extending emergency paid leave helps to ensure teachers can continue to provide for their families, helps families not make difficult decisions about reporting to work, and sustains the intense tenacity of our nation’s education. Let’s not let this moment pass us by.