Education groups could refuse to return to schools until there are zero COVID-19 cases in the community

Several groups of educators nationwide and in Washington could refuse to return to work if schools aren’t opened to their definition of safety.

A group called Washington State Educators Unite held an online seminar Tuesday, supporting the nationwide effort. On the Zoom call, only 26 people were participating; others were participating on Facebook as well. The group is affiliated with National Educators United.

The group supported a platform that calls for no in-person teaching until there are 24 days with no new cases in a community. The platform goes beyond that, however, and also includes demands to remove all police officers from schools, lower class sizes, more testing and a “massive infusion of federal money to support the reopening funded by taxing the billionaires and Wall Street.”

Schools

The online seminar invitation was shared over the weekend by the Spokane Education Association. Several teachers and members of the union objected to that. One wrote “I would never attend. I think I’ll defund my SEA union dues for promoting such an event.” Several others agreed, while some posted that they don’t fault the union for promoting the event for educational purposes.

Among the speakers in the online event was a teacher and union organizer from Oakland, California named Harley Litzelman. Litzelman wrote this piece called Teachers: Refuse to Return to Campus. He says educators’ feelings and fears mean nothing “if we are not willing to exercise the power to withhold our labor until our conditions are met.”

For its part, the Washington Education Association has also said it’s not safe to resume in-person classes right away this fall.

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School districts in the Puget Sound area have chosen to start the school with remote learning this fall. Districts in the Spokane area plan to offer a combination of in-person and remote learning for older students, while hoping to welcome younger students back into the classroom. Districts may not have that option, though, if the state or county health districts decide it’s not safe to reopen.

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