We Need Safe Schools
As Iowans, we believe that high-quality, equitable, and safe public education is essential to the future of our state. No matter what we look like, where we come from, what is in our wallets, who we love, or where we live, everyone has the right to an education.
The purpose of public education is to provide the people with the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to make informed decisions as part of our democracy. The compounding crises facing us today have made providing education to all Iowans more necessary than ever.
Iowa’s public schools and universities do much more than provide academic instruction. Schools feed our children, providing nourishing meals week in and week out. They deliver essential physical therapy and behavioral support services to children who need them. They provide a wide range of activities outside of regular school hours, safely watching over children while their parents and loved ones are working.
The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring students, educators, and families to re-imagine how we fulfill our commitment to teaching Iowa’s children. The solutions will require creativity, transparency, and democratic decision-making. How we move forward must be based on science, shaped by experts, and decided upon by the people that are on the front lines of the pandemic in our schools.
This is a major undertaking that must be tailored to the needs of our communities and designed by the people who are impacted these decisions.
COVID Kim Reynolds: A Failed Governor
Gov. Kim Reynolds is attempting to force a dangerous and arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach to this crisis.
We will not accept her proclamation that all schools must provide at least half of their instruction in-person.
Iowa should not be reopening schools until the spread of the coronavirus is under control.
Dictating in-person instruction while the virus continues to spread uncontrollably,
already killing over 1,000 Iowans?
That's the epitome of putting politics before people.
Schools can only escape the governor's mandate if their county reports a staggeringly high 15% infection rate. These requirements are way out of line with the recommendations of experts, including the CDC.
While Governor Reynolds is attempting to force schools to conduct at least half of their instruction in person, she has also refused to require a mandatory face covering policy in public spaces, including schools.
Nearly every state in the country has local or statewide face-covering policies, and
many Iowa communities have stepped up to require face coverings.
Even the White House recommends a statewide mask mandate for Iowa, but the governor still won't act.
The Governor's reckless actions threatent the health and lives of teachers, counselors, school administrators,
bus drivers, janitors, lunchroom staff, volunteers and all school support staff, as well as
their families and the families of students.
We must be clear: the people who will bear the brunt of Gov. Reynolds' dangerous policies are Black, Indigenous and people of color. These Iowans are getting sick and dying at staggering rates.
Compared to their white neighbors,
Latinx and Black people are three times as likely to become infected with
COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from it.
We know that parents, who are trying to work or look for work, trying to keep their families healthy and doing everything they can to provide shelter, food, and comfort during these incredibly difficult times, have now been asked to do much more.
We are acutely aware of the challenges of distance learning. Yet we know that we can rise to this moment, and we will not risk the lives of students, teachers and families because we find ourselves in a difficult situation. We are Iowans and we can do hard things.
We will adapt, learn and grow to rise to the challenge of educating our youth. But we will be much less successful if Governor Reynolds continues to fight local communities, withhold support, and erect barriers to creating our own solutions.
The road ahead is long and uncertain. But we know that the only way we can pull through
this is together, or not at all.
It’s time for Governor Reynolds stop putting politics before people and support the Iowans who are working tirelessly to deliver high-quality, equitable and safe public education.
Immediately rescind the Governor’s July 17 proclamation, which mandates
during the pandemic.
Iowa communities are unique from each other and have experienced COVID-19 in different ways. Local boards and leaders need to make key evidence-based decisions on the structure of schools and learning.
Immediately implement a statewide face-covering policy that requires masks in public and on the job to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
This order must depend on masks being made freely available to the public, not policing or punitive fines
that disproportionately harm working-class people and people of color.
Support local school districts as they develop plans for safe learning.
These plans should be designed in coordination with local public health officials. They should be based on current
COVID-19 data and trends, and they should include clear benchmarks to be met before in-person learning can begin. Iowa should also require reporting of COVID outbreaks in schools, with any and all data on school outbreaks being made publicly available.
Expand testing so that every Iowan can access a test without cost or barriers
This includes at-home rapid testing that students and workers can use to make decisions about their health and community safety. We need to expand testing, not restrict it.
Provide every Iowan—the faculty, staff and families of our public school and university communities—an emergency monthly payment of $2,000.
This will ensure that the community can prioritize health and safety concerns while providing support for our families’ food and shelter needs.