On Wednesday afternoon, OEA President Scott DiMauro delivered a statement to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine on the need to prioritize teachers and other education employees as allocation plans for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine are made. OEA Vice President Jeff Wensing testified before Ohio lawmakers Wednesday in support of proposed changes to the state’s education laws in response to COVID-19.
“As the school year begins our students and educators are facing many challenges. Whether classes are in-person, online or a combination of the two, it is unlike any year that came before. Recognizing this, Senate Bill 358 (SB 358) would extend flexibility in several areas,” Vice President Wensing told Senate Education Committee members. Click here for Wensing’s full statement
OEA applauds calls in SB 358 to require the Ohio Department of Education to seek a federal waiver of testing requirements and suspend the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, some high school end-of-course exams, and the fall administration of the 3rd grade ELA test. OEA also supports the provision of SB 358 allowing local flexibility on teacher evaluations and urges lawmakers to amend the bill to extend the House Bill 164 prohibition on using student growth data in teacher evaluations through the 2021-22 school year. SB 358’s suspension of school and district report card ratings for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years is wholeheartedly welcomed by OEA.
“Due to COVID-19, school districts will continue to experience barriers to education service delivery and instability in student data (particularly in districts with high concentrations of poverty). It would be misleading and unfair to require report card grades or punitive measures based on report card data during this time,” Wensing said. “Further, OEA continues to urge legislators to overhaul Ohio’s broken report card system. Now is the time to act with urgency so we don’t go back to using a report card widely regarded as fundamentally flawed.”
While Ohio lawmakers debate measures to address the educational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, national leaders are making decisions about distributing COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. Speaking on behalf of the National Education Association and its 3 million members, OEA President DiMauro urged the National Academy of Sciences to place all education employees in a higher tier of prioritization to receive vaccines. The current draft framework would place teachers in Phase 2 of the plan to equitably allocate vaccines, but DiMauro encouraged Academy members to include teachers, paraeducators and other education support professionals, specialized instructional support personnel, librarians, administrators, and higher education faculty and staff in Phase 1b, in recognition of the crucial role educational institutions play and the underlying vulnerabilities of many of the employees who work in them.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring that we return to safe and equitable in-person instruction,” DiMauro said. “It is crucial for any vaccination plan to incorporate the voices of front-line workers, including educators.”