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How L.A. Schools Should Address Coronavirus Crisis

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By ARLENE INOUYE, Secretary, United Teachers Los Angeles

This statement is in response to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s announcement on March 13 that it is closing public schools effective March 16.

UTLA called for the closure of schools yesterday (March 12) due to the exponential spread of the virus, and the importance of social distancing as the crucial way to flatten out the spread. We believe it is the right thing to do, and are partners with LAUSD in the health and safety of all students, families and employees of the district.

UTLA Secretary Arlene Inouye (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

At the same time, we believe that today and every day all workers, all families (inside and outside of LAUSD) deserve the 10 Common Good/Community Supports that we outline below.

Public schools have been looked upon to not only provide for the academic needs of our students, but also provide over a million meals a day, provide support for homeless and foster young people, mental health and emotional support, and parent centers for informational and support, resources for undocumented families, etc.

UTLA’s position is that we need resources and finances from the city, state and federal government so that our students and families have the social net they need. This is an opportunity to take this on and make conditions better in Los Angeles for students and working families.

We call on the city, county, and state to create a healthy, socio-economic safety net for our students, working families and communities, including these common good and community support demands:

• Outline clear health and safety protocols for the home.

• Provide 15 additional paid sick days a year to all workers in Los Angeles County, to align with quarantine period for COVID-19; additional paid time off for those who do not have sick days with their employers.

• A weekly disaster stipend for working parents to stay home with their children without losing pay.

• Remove all economic barriers for COVID-19 testing and treatment, including eliminating all insurance co-payments and deductibles.

• Create a network of food and supply distribution centers.

• Free and reliable broadband Internet access and access to electronic devices for students while at home.

• Debt forgiveness, suspended rent and mortgage payments, suspended eviction court and utility shut-offs.

• No penalizing schools based on attendance or missed standardized assessments.

Our full statement is below. We believe that our protection is dependent on how the most vulnerable among us is protected. This crisis affects all of us, and is a time to lift up a social safety net for everyone.

UTLA Statement on the Proactive Closure of LAUSD Schools

Coronavirus COVID-19 is a pandemic; a health crisis unlike anything we have ever seen. While there are no identified or known cases connected to LAUSD schools, the nature of the exponential spread of the virus and what we’ve learned from other states and countries around the world, means we cannot take half-measures in this moment.

Therefore, we are calling on LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner to proactively close all public and charter schools within LAUSD.

We believe the only way to address this looming health crisis and to protect our students, families and communities is to have an accelerated timeframe for the school district to close all schools.

We understand and share the overwhelming anxiety in our city and in our country. We encourage our members to adhere to the advice of LAUSD and follow campus contingency plans, as we know there is a lot of work to be done to ensure our students and families can be healthy and safe.

At a time when tens of thousands of hotel workers and other low-wage workers are being threatened with job loss, Donald Trump is promising to bail out Wall Street and multi-billion-dollar corporations. This is unacceptable. We call on the state and federal government to immediately release funds to support our vulnerable student and family populations.

As the fifth-largest economy in the world, and with a total reserve of almost $20 billion, California can afford to do the right thing and support our families.

We call on the city, county, and state to create a healthy, socio-economic safety net for our students, working families and communities, including these common good and community support demands:

• Outline clear health and safety protocols for the home.

• Provide 15 additional paid sick days a year to all workers in Los Angeles County, to align with quarantine period for COVID-19; additional paid time off for those who do not have sick days with their employers.

• A weekly disaster stipend for working parents to stay home with their children without losing pay.

• Remove all economic barriers for COVID-19 testing and treatment, including eliminating all insurance co-payments and deductibles.

• Create a network of food and supply distribution centers.

• Free and reliable broadband internet access and access to electronic devices for students while at home.

• Debt forgiveness, suspended rent and mortgage payments, suspended eviction court and utility shut-offs.

• No penalizing schools based on attendance or missed standardized assessments.

We must increase our capacity to test for COVID-19 both proactively and reactively, in a way that places no economic burden on individuals and families in need. As of March 11, only about 1,000 total tests are known to have been administered – for a population of over 327 million.

We must provide safe shelter, healthcare services and support for our students suffering from homelessness. We must provide additional support and protection for our students with disabilities, especially our medically fragile students.

Philanthropists and billionaires who claim they want to help students should step in to support an immediate, massive increase in COVID-19 testing capacity, as Amazon and Gates Foundation have begun to do in Seattle.

We are committed to working with district, city, county and state agencies to make sure our kids and families are supported in the appropriate ways to get through this potentially devastating health crisis.

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