Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our federal, state, county, and city governments have either ignored the severity of this issue or failed to meet the challenge. From President Donald Trump’s negligent underplaying of the true nature of the problem to his outright lies about the effects of the virus, to our State Legislature and Supreme Court’s actions to end statewide orders meant to slow the virus, to Milwaukee County and City’s desire to open up bars and restaurants, every layer of government has failed to protect us. And our history of underfunding Milwaukee working families, our communities, public services, and public schools is painfully on display. We have been given unacceptable choices due to this myriad of circumstances.
The economic toll of the pandemic is immense, and the burden falls on working people, primarily on women and Black and Latinx people, many of whom are parents. Evictions are increasing and “grace” periods for mortgages and rent are about to run out. Enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of July.
And now, Trump and Betsy DeVos have demanded that all public schools open in person as if everything is normal or lose federal public school funding.
Wisconsin has the second fewest overall health restrictions in the nation, and according to The Atlantic’s The COVID Tracking Project, Wisconsin now ranks worst in the country with the highest Coronavirus spread. Milwaukee County’s positive test rate is 11%, more than five times the rate in New York City.
Tens of millions of people are being asked to choose between their economic survival and surviving the pandemic, and red flags are waving everywhere. As of today, federal and state governments have refused to protect students, educators, and communities with massive and immediate financial relief so that the virus can be contained. It is time for our elected leaders to do what is necessary to keep our communities safe. We must demand that testing is available in the neighborhoods that our public schools anchor with efficient contact tracing, that every person has access to proper and dignified healthcare, that no family is evicted or foreclosed on, that no one goes hungry, that “essential” does not mean “disposable” and that everyone is safe at work.
The health and safety needs of educators and the families and communities they serve are a common goal. Now more than ever educators, families, students, and the community must unify around a common vision calling for a safe and equitable reopening of our public schools that is centered in science.
The combination of federal and state governments de-funding public schools, union busting, and rampant expansion of privatization via unaccountable private charter and voucher schools that don’t outperform public schools has left students and educators to do more with less and to learn and teach in austere conditions.
In city and rural public school districts across the country our public schools lack adequate ventilation systems, classrooms with windows that don’t open or don’t have screens, bathrooms without soap, paper towels and warm water, and nurses who drive between 3 and 4 schools without even band aids and ice packs.
Health and safety, science, and equity must order our steps as we organize to protect our students and fellow education workers. The negligence and abandonment of our public schools by federal and state governments has left our nation unprepared to support a physical reopening of schools.
Strong and immediate action to keep our Milwaukee students safe, and all Wisconsin students safe, is needed now from Governor Evers and the Wisconsin Legislature, the Wisconsin Department of Health Secretary, Andrea Palm, Wisconsin State Superintendent, Dr. Carolyn Stanford-Taylor, County Executive Crowley, Mayor Barrett, City of Milwaukee Commissioner of Health, Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, and MPS Superintendent, Dr. Keith Posley and the Milwaukee Board of School Directors.
Before the Special MPS School Board Meeting, members of the public should do the following:
Send written testimony to all board members
Megan O’Halloran – email@example.com
Sequanna Taylor – firstname.lastname@example.org
Annie Woodward – email@example.com
Bob Peterson – firstname.lastname@example.org
Paula Phillips – email@example.com
Larry Miller – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tony Baez – email@example.com
Marva Herndon – firstname.lastname@example.org
Erika Siemsen – email@example.com
Register to provide written or verbal testimony to the MPS Board on Thursday, July 16th. For information on how to register and watch the meeting click here. https://mps.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/…/School-Board/Boardcast.htm
Demand the HEROES Act be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President immediately!
Image: Susan Simensky Bietila