California Governor Gavin Newsom and democratic lawmakers announced a proposal for reopening schools in the state after students have been learning virtually for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, California’s largest local teachers union greatly opposes the plan, calling it a “recipe for propagating structural racism.”
Newsom’s plan, which was unveiled over the weekend, offers schools a $2 billion incentive if they were to open before April 1. It also offers grants to schools that transition kindergarten through second grade students and at-risk students in all grades, by the end of March. This plan includes reopening schools in areas that have high infection rates.
Studies have shown that Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Many argue that reopening schools will only exacerbate that by leaving Black and Brown students even more vulnerable to the disease. According to Politico, California parents of minority children indicated in a survey that they are unsure about allowing their children to return to schools. They don’t trust the school system and believe the infection rate would increase.
Many educators agree with parents and believe they would end up putting their lives and their families’ lives at risk if schools were reopened. “We are being unfairly targeted by people who are not experiencing this disease in the same ways as students and families are in our communities,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of The United Teachers of Los Angeles. “If this was a rich person’s disease, we would’ve seen a very different response. We would not have the high rates of infections and deaths. Now educators are asked instead to sacrifice ourselves, the safety of our students and the safety of our schools.”
Myart-Cruz and others are demanding that schools remain closed in Los Angeles county, especially those schools located in districts with high infection rates.