Contact: Douglas Ley, AFT NH President
Phone: (603) 831-3661
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9:00 A.M EDT, July 15, 2020
AFT-NH President Doug Ley issued the following statement in reaction to the guidelines issued by Governor Sununu.
“Once again, Gov. Chris Sununu fails the test of leadership. With COVID infections spiking rapidly across the nation and with public health officials repeatedly stating that wearing masks is one of the easiest and most effective ways to limit the spread of the virus, the Governor refuses to mandate wearing of masks in schools. In fact, the entire set of guidelines released today amount to a pile of nothing—little guidance, vague suggestions, and most important, no support provided by the State to local school districts facing huge costs as the school year approaches. The Governor likes to act like a king doling out Federal CARES funds, but when it comes to actual leadership, the king abdicates.
From the start, the process of crafting guidelines for school reopening in Fall 2020 was fraught with difficulties, mostly self-inflicted. The task force and supportive working groups appointed by Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut contained virtually no public school teachers while sidelining leaders of statewide education organizations to a working group with no clear assignment or duties. The initial materials sent out by the Commissioner featured numerous press articles touting individual stories of students thriving in online education but nothing on the work of educators and the looming challenges. Even the survey touted today was tilted towards online education, and while the Governor cited the survey to justify his vague recommendations, the actual results have yet to be released, despite requests from myself and other working group members.
No required use of masks. No State support to aid districts facing huge costs for heightened sanitizing and cleaning regimens. No aid for districts when it comes to transportation (how many kids can you fit safely on a school bus?) No help in obtaining PPE for schools. No help in ensuring all students have equal access to remote learning when it becomes necessary (as it surely will). And what about the teachers, para-educators, food service workers and administrative support staff? What if their health is already compromised or if a loved one at home is vulnerable? What provisions are to be made for them?
Local control is part of the very foundation of public education in New Hampshire, but stronger State guidance and support can mesh with local control. Local variations are real, but broad public health concerns crossing local district lines are also real, along with the scientific guidance that can help us in forming sensible policies. Sadly, Governor Sununu has abdicated his leadership responsibilities when it comes to our students, teachers, and schools in New Hampshire. We can only hope and pray that the patchwork approach adopted in New Hampshire does not lead to the same tragic results that we are now witnessing across the United States.”
AFT-NH is a federation of 28 locals, and is the largest affiliate of the NH AFL-CIO. Our 4000 members range from teachers to para-educators, school support staff, municipal employees, law-enforcement officers and higher education faculty, and we stand for equal access to quality public education, affordable health care, and maintaining the rights of working people to have protections and a voice in the workplace.