COVID Resources + Updates

AFFILIATE RESOURCE: The Iowa State Education Association recently developed and shared an Educator Bill of Rights for navigating the current crises. Check it out here: https://isea.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Educator-Bill-of-Rights.pdf.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Graduate Assistants are one class of NEA members hit hardest by the pandemic due to cutbacks in higher education funding. On September 10, the Center for Organizing convened its first ever national meeting of NEA graduate assistant locals with leaders from all eight chapters in attendance (representing Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, and Rhode Island). Leaders and staff eagerly shared issues, training needs, and more. Momentum continues to build, with meetings of this new National Graduate Workers Committee continuing on a monthly basis.

LOCAL ACTION: Education Austin (TX) and the school district's superintendent have come to an agreement that return to in-person work is voluntary. Education Austin and the superintendent have agreed to hold daily meetings to monitor developments moving forward. As Education Austin has shared on social media: “We want the individualized needs of our students and staff to be met. Mandating a one-size-fits-all system and threatening employees doesn't serve our students best.” Check out the affiliate’s plan here.

LOCAL ACTION: The Sunnyside Education Association (AZ) negotiated a great hybrid model with the Sunnyside School District, accommodating most educators who don't feel safe physically returning to worksites when the district’s hybrid model starts next week. Students will be physically returning to school only twice a week; the entire rest of the week is asynchronous—learning offline on their own time and pace. And importantly,  the in-person classes are capped at 10 students, allowing them to have real social distancing.

*NEW* NEA EXTERNAL RESOURCE: NEA Education Policy and Practice and NEA Research jointly commissioned a report called Digital Equity for Students and Educators in an effort to help detail the digital divide impacting students across the country (national overview attached). Online you will find the full report, including state-by-state tables starting on page 25, and state maps starting on page 56.  The gap in full access to broadband internet and web-enabled devices (such as computers or tablets) has historically existed—particularly for Native students, students of color, and rural students–but has of course been exacerbated by the pandemic crisis.  NEA and members have advocated vigorously for federal funding to help address this concern, and NEA Government Relations launched a federal coalition to secure $12 billion in funding for the federal E-rate Program for public school technology access as part of the negotiations on the COVID-19 emergency package.  Activists are asked to contact their Members of Congress regarding E-Rate funding (see attached Homework Gap one-pager), using their state’s information as provided within this report.  The report and federal advocacy call-to-action can be found online at: www.nea.org/digitalequity.  The report can be found here: https://www.nea.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/NEA%20Report%20-%20Digital%20Equity%20for%20Students%20and%20Educators.pdf.

In order to answer persistent questions on students’ lack of access and to bolster state and local advocacy, the focus of this report written by Public Policy Associates is the availability of and access to technology for school-aged children, representing a smaller ‘slice’ of the typical homework gap numbers. The PPA report’s sample was restricted to households with students who were between 5 and 17 years of age, while recent reports covered not just school-aged students, but all children below 18 plus affected educators. These data are drawn from the American Community Survey (ACS), which is distributed by the U.S. Census Bureau. The data for this report come from 2018, which is the most recent year available. One-year data from 2019 will not be released until later in 2020. Three relevant ACS questions that have been asked since 2016 related to internet access, broadband, and computer devices were included in these data with those relying on smartphones coded as not having a computer device. ACS demographic and geographical data were used to identify inequalities in access to technology, including race and ethnicity, income status, and geography.

*NEW* NEA INTERNAL RESOURCE: NEA's Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy Department has put together a document that provides language from dozens of COVID-19 MOUs that have been negotiated by locals that are affiliated with NEA and other education unions since the onset of the pandemic. The document helps to identify the issues that locals are using collective bargaining to address and shows agreements that are being reached on those issues. It includes full MOUs, topical excerpts, and NEA guidance and resources, making it a convenient tool for searching a broad range of topics and seeing language from multiple agreements. To navigate the nearly 300-page internal document designed to support your strategy, you can either search (Find; Ctrl F) specific words and terms or you can jump to a specific MOU, topical section, or NEA resource using the internal hyperlinks at the beginning of the document.

PARTNER *EVENT*: NEA partner Partnership for the Future of Learning is hosting a conversation titled Restarting and Reinventing a Racially Just School System featuring Linda Darling-Hammond. At the end of August, the Learning Policy Institute released a report, Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond, providing an overarching framework of actions policymakers and educators can take to support equitable, effective, whole child, and racially just  teaching and learning—whether in person or online. PFL is inviting educators to join a virtual discussion for the Partnership for the Future of Learning community with Darling-Hammond, LPI’s President and CEO and President of the California State Board of Education, taking place Thursday, October 29th at 2pm ET. In this gathering of network members, we will hear Linda’s top points from the report and have plenty of time for discussion. To take advantage of this opportunity, please register here.

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