“Ohio’s educators want nothing more than to be in their classrooms with their students, but only when it is safe, and our members are doing everything in their power to meet the educational and health and safety needs of all of their students, both in-person and remotely,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro. “Unfortunately, the scope of what local district leaders and educators can do is quite limited, especially given the budget crisis currently facing our state’s school districts. Only the state and federal governments can provide the direction and funding needed to implement the measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 right now.”
OEA is urging Governor Mike DeWine to begin releasing money from the state’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund immediately to aid all schools in their efforts to follow all CDC guidelines. “Because of Ohio’s unconstitutional, inequitable school funding system that has created huge state and local funding disparities, some districts are able to keep their communities safer than others,” DiMauro pointed out. “Where Ohio’s students and educators live and work should not determine their relative health and safety.”
OEA continues to call on the state to require schools to follow best safety practices prescribed by public health experts for any in-person instruction in counties in the lower tiers of Ohio’s public health advisory system. Schools in counties where COVID-19 infection rates are highest should remain open only for remote instruction as long as that is necessary. The OEA Board of Directors’ Position Statement can be viewed here: OEA Board Position Statment on Safe and Equitable School Reopening (.pdf file).
“Statewide guidance is critical to ensuring the safety of all of Ohio’s students,” DiMauro said. “While OEA appreciates the importance of local control in many educational decisions, the current piecemeal district-by-district approach fails to protect some students and educators from unacceptably dangerous conditions in their classrooms, truly putting lives at risk. Ohio must do better.”
While a coordinated response from Ohio’s governor, lawmakers, public health experts, and the Ohio Department of Education would represent a critical measure in addressing the new COVID-19 spike for our schools, OEA recognizes how important federal assistance is in implementing any plans to keep the state’s children and educators safe.
“We need the U.S. Senate to pass a COVID-19 stimulus package for our communities. Ohioans need to call Senator Portman to demand action,” DiMauro said. “Ohioans have waited too long already for relief from the federal government, and playing politics by delaying stimulus until after the election only further hurts Ohioans and Ohio schools that need help now.”