“By many accounts, teachers have been particularly unhappy and stressed out about their jobs since the pandemic hit, first struggling to adjust to difficult remote-learning requirements and then returning to sometimes unsafe working environments. A nationally representative survey of teachers by RAND Education and Labor in late January and early February found that educators were feeling depressed and burned out from their jobs at higher rates than the general population. These rates were higher for female teachers, with 82 percent reporting frequent job-related stress compared with 66 percent of male teachers.
In the survey, 1 in 4 teachers — particularly Black teachers — reported that they were considering leaving their jobs at the end of the school year. Only 1 in 6 said the same before the pandemic.
Yet the data on teacher employment shows a system that is stretched, not shattered. In an EdWeek Research Center report released in October, a significant number of district leaders and principals surveyed — a little less than half — said that their district had struggled to hire a sufficient number of full-time teachers. This number paled in comparison, though, with the nearly 80 percent of school leaders who said they were struggling to find substitute teachers, the nearly 70 percent who said they were struggling to find bus drivers and the 55 percent who said they were struggling to find paraprofessionals.
More concrete jobs data suggests that school employees have largely stayed put. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer public-education professionals quit their jobs between the months of April and August the past two years than did so during that same time immediately before the pandemic.”
“Still, plenty of teachers are quitting — and they’re quitting at least in part because of the pandemic. According to a survey by the RAND Corporation, almost half of former public school teachers who left the field since March 2020 cited COVID-19 as the driving factor.”
“some local districts are hurting. Sasha Pudelski, the assistant director for policy and advocacy for the School Superintendents Association, has spoken to school leaders around the country who are facing teacher shortages, sometimes at crisis levels. But her sense is that these shortages are uneven depending on a district’s resource level and how well they’re able to pay. Based on what she’s heard from school-district leaders, she suspects shortages are more acute in low-income communities with a lower tax base for teacher salaries, potentially causing a further shortage of educators from underrepresented groups, who disproportionately teach in these areas.
Indeed, a fall 2021 study of school-staffing shortages throughout the state of Washington shows that high-poverty districts are facing significantly more staffing challenges than their more affluent counterparts. In some places, there are significant numbers of unfilled positions.”
“It is brutally unfair that thousands of parents have no alternative but to entrust their kids’ education to a system in which people like Myart-Cruz hold the power. Union officials who want to keep employees at home for as long as possible—and don’t care how little math is being taught to students—do not have the kids’ best interests in mind. They are demanding tremendous sacrifices from everyone else, and they have no reason to compromise because there’s zero accountability.
This is why all families deserve school choice: If education officials simply refuse to give students what they need, students should have every right to go elsewhere—and take their share of the system’s education funds with them. No educator who shrugs at the idea of kids falling behind in reading and math is entitled to tax dollars.”
“Educators’ anxiety is based on reasonable concerns. Covid-19 is a serious illness. And schools are an indoor group setting with the potential to spread infection. But schools, it turns out, with a few basic safety measures, including masks and reasonable distancing, are not a high-risk venue for Covid-19 transmission. In fact, they appear to have far lower rates of the virus than their surrounding communities. Still, some education union leaders are beginning to lay the foundation for schools remaining shuttered into the 2021-22 school year.”
“One sticking point, for example, has been the union’s early and continued insistence that desks remain at least six feet apart at all times. This requirement mathematically determines whether there is enough space for learners in the building. Distancing is absolutely critical to Covid-19 mitigation, but there is no magical threshold that makes six feet the “safe” distance and five feet “dangerous.”
In settings like school, where everyone is wearing a face covering, there really is no measurable difference in risk between being three feet and six feet apart. That is why there is no official guidance from any relevant public health body that mandates six-foot distancing at all times.”
“The union also named a lack of asymptomatic testing for teachers as a major barrier to return to in-person learning. To get kids back to school, we implemented such a routine testing plan, at great cost and logistical effort. We discovered that since testing began in January 2021, the positivity rate among teachers and staff has been approximately 0.15 percent — while cases were surging in the Boston metro area — and our contact tracing efforts have not identified any cases of in-building transmission.
Even so, the union continues to resist a return to full in-person learning. What’s more, the goalpost seems to have shifted again, now to universal vaccination of teachers.”
“last spring, we observed the experiences of other countries like Scotland, Singapore, and France, where schools reopened and masks and social distancing seemed to prevent large-scale transmission.
In the US, epidemiologists compared the timing of school closures to changes in Covid incidence. Some studies found that school closures might have reduced the spread of illness, but the findings are complicated because we were also making other major public health changes at the same time. And overall they failed to find a strong link.
Data and patterns also began to emerge about children’s Covid-19 test results and their exposures. Playdates with friends emerged as the common exposure among the infected; time in school did not.
Still, as reassuring as the data were, they were all indirect. The gold standard to learn if schools can open safely is fairly simple: Open schools, measure Covid incidence, and see what happens. Many US school districts have now done this, and we have the data.
First, researchers in North Carolina published results from 11 school districts and over 100,000 students and staff. Schools in those districts employed mandatory masking and six-foot distancing where feasible, but no major capital improvement to HVAC systems or buildings. In the first quarter of this school year, they found the rate of transmission of Covid in schools was dramatically lower (roughly 1/25) than the level of transmission in the community. Among all of the Covid-19 infections observed in school, the state health department’s tracers found 96 percent were acquired in the community, and there were no documented cases of the virus passing from child to adult in schools — zero.
Second, a similar study followed 17 schools in Wisconsin. Like North Carolina, those schools required masks indoors, three-foot distancing with effort to distance farther whenever feasible, and no major capital improvements. Between August 31 and November 29, with over 4,500 students and 650 staff, they found seven cases of Covid transmission to children and also found no cases of Covid transmission to educators in the buildings. Further, these schools eliminated Covid transmission at the same time that the surrounding community saw a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.
A third important preprint study analyzes data from two schools in Atlanta. This study is small, but it is important because the schools were conducting routine asymptomatic screening of students, teachers, and staff. In Atlanta, 72 percent of the limited number of transmission events in one school were known to be the result of non-compliance with masking. And again here, there were no cases transmitted from students to teachers.
Sadly, at the same time that we are learning definitively that we can open schools safely and essentially prevent Covid transmission, data are emerging about the real damage being done to children by prolonged remote learning”
“The upshot of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for a 7-2 Court is that thousands of teachers at religious schools are no longer protected by anti-discrimination laws. If one of them is fired for being Black, or gay, or a woman, the law may do nothing to intervene.
The case involves the “ministerial exception” to civil rights laws. As a general rule, religious institutions have total control over whom they employ as “ministers.” That means that if a church wants to fire its preacher because of that preacher’s race or gender, it may do so, even though such discrimination ordinarily is illegal.
As Alito explains, the Constitution protects “the right of churches and other religious institutions to decide matters ‘of faith and doctrine’ without government intrusion.” Implicit in this right is a certain “autonomy with respect to internal management decisions that are essential to the institution’s central mission. And a component of this autonomy is the selection of the individuals who play certain key roles.””
“a teacher at a religious school whose duties include religious instruction qualifies as a “minister,” and is therefore unprotected by anti-discrimination law.”
“Under Alito’s decision, this fairly small amount of religious instruction — a little more than three hours a week — was enough to trigger the ministerial exception. “Implicit in our decision in Hosanna-Tabor,” Alito writes, “was a recognition that educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school.””