TRENTON, NJ - The Governor and his allies in education see eye to eye on many issues. They do not see eye to eye on reopening schools, however.
In the last few days, this private détente has broken through to the public as well.
The NJEA has lobbied hard during the pandemic to keep schools remote. While the union wants them to work remote, however, supermarket cashiers, healthcare workers, service personnel of all kinds and thousands of other businesses already work in person.
Many urban area schools initially complied with the unions push. These economically stressed areas had many dual income parents. Remote caused job loss and challenges for children who depend on their schools to eat.
Schools in Paterson, Linden, Newark and elsewhere stayed remote. Over 370 Union teachers in Elizabeth had refused to show up to work and shut in person school down.
The Centers for Disease Control say in person learning is better. The CDC supports opening schools for in person learning. So does Governor Murphy.
The CDC says in part, "Of key significance, in-person learning is in the best interest of students, when compared to virtual learning. Application and adherence to mitigation measures provided by CDC and similar to those implemented at essential workplaces can help schools reopen and stay open safely for in-person learning."
The CDC stated that the unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for reopening and remaining open, enabling students to receive both academic instruction and enable the provision of other critical services and supports. By strictly implementing mitigation strategies, schools will be able to meet the needs of their students and community, while reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Heeding the NJEA shutdown mantra may lead to increased depression, anxiety, drug use and learning setbacks as well, according to experts. That didn't impact the NJEA viewpoint:
“We are dismayed that Gov. Murphy and the governors of six other states have downplayed the danger posed to students and school staff participating in in-person instruction during the current COVID-19 surge in our region." Stated the NJEA.
“As of Nov. 14, five out of six zones in New Jersey had a CALI rating of ‘high.’ That CALI score will likely rise to ‘very high’ as COVID cases are rising by the hour, and the total number of cases in New Jersey has increased by 19,000 in the six days since that data was released. School data reported by the state is misleading at best because it does not include cases where students or staff are infected with COVID during school-related activities such as sports and other extracurricular programs. School buildings and school-related activities are far more dangerous than the state’s data indicate." Stated the NJEA.
Murphy had a different take on the matter. During a reporters question about the difference between the NJEA and the Governor on Friday, Murphy shared his appreciation for educators, while committing to make sure they show up to work in person and teach the children.
"I'll repeat what I said today and I said many days including recently - educators are on the pedestal. They are heroic - they're at the front lines of this. It's not a normal school year, this is not stress-free by any means Bless them I can't say enough good things about them."
Murphy said, "I don't have a whole lot more to add other than the data we present is the data that is vetted. When you look at the PPE, barriers, one way stairs and hallways, face coverings at all time, surfaces hygiene... I don't know any structures indoors that are better or safer than are schools."