Press Room

Media contacts

Reneeka Massey-Jones
Communications Fellow
Phone: (360) 489-5856
Email: reneeka@eec-wa.org

Sharonne Navas
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Phone: (206) 486-6031
Email: info@eec-wa.org

EEC Statement on Re-opening Schools

July 28th, 2020

The Equity in Education Coalition demands a public school system that centers
children first.

There has been a lot of news in WA state around COVID-19 recently, and all with varying
degrees of welcome. The COVID-19 cases continue to grow and Gov. Inslee keeps
announcing new restrictions around opening the state. We have had to make major
adjustments and sacrifices. Summer, normally a time for carefree days and hanging out with friends and BBQ’s, has become a season of 6 feet distancing and exploring what masks to wear.

As the time for us to look forward to back to school sales and the anxiety of buying new
clothes is supposed to be drawing near, parents, students, and teachers are faced with two
impossibly bad options – Return to a face to face education system that will put countless
people at risk; or Return to online, virtual education, which puts the education of countless
students at risk.

Most people will say that in-person education is the best for both students and teachers, but is it really? With so many low-income, black, brown, indigenous, and SE Asian students falling into ever-widening opportunity and achievement gaps — We must ask ourselves, are in-person classes actually working for our students?

We haven’t contained this virus. We are still in the first wave. Our numbers are going up.
People are still going out without masks or hand sanitizer. And now educational leaders want to try to convince us that being in a face to face environment for education is the best way to go.

There have been several school districts that have opted to stay virtual for the Fall of 2020. We applaud this WHILE AT THE SAME TIME acknowledging that our parents need to go to work. Our communities have to pay bills, buy food, and get clothes. Our communities can’t all transition seamlessly to work-from-home or virtual offices because we work gig jobs, service jobs, or are essential workers.

*Please note that the information contained herein is not intended to provide specific legal or financial advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for such professional
advice.

Educational leaders have asked that school districts that are staying virtual fulfill the following:

  1. Work with community partners to identify child care options for school-aged
    students whose families don’t have the option to stay home with a child each
    day;
  2. Address gaps in connectivity and technology access so each student has sufficient
    opportunity to continue their learning outside of the classroom;
  3. Continue providing school meals to the students who rely on them; and
  4. Utilize their local data to determine which of their students need additional
    intensive learning supports, and provide those supports remotely if possible or
    in-person when that is the only effective delivery method.
  5. All school districts this year, including those who will provide their learning
    online, will need to have weekly schedules for each student, daily engagement or
    assigned work for each student, and requirements for daily attendance.
  6. In addition, all districts must meet the number of instructional days and hours
    required in state law, consistent with the State Board of Education’s rules on the
    definition of an instructional hour.

But this demand makes SO many assumptions about our school districts and our
communities. For example:

  1. Not every school district has community partners to help identify child care
    options. Not every school district has committed the time or effort to build
    community partnerships. In some instances, the district IS the community
    partner. NOW we are demanding that school districts work with community
    partners to identify child care? Where was this demand last year when some of
    our older siblings had to be the early day child care provider for their younger
    siblings because Mom works the early shift or Dad comes home from the
    graveyard shift after school is in session? How come OSPI doesn’t put forth
    some financial resources to help fund child care needs if it is now going to be a
    requirement?
  2. “Addressing connectivity gaps” sounds so easy and so simple. But the reality is
    that it is a lot more complicated than “get a laptop and a hotspot”. Connectivity
    is more than just hardware. The digital divide could mean a lack of a laptop or
    modem. It could mean a lack of internet connection — a) fiber optics don’t reach
    every home in the state, b) hotspots are spotting at best, c) not everyone can
    afford to pay for the internet and low-income options aren’t available
    everywhere; d) educational inequities have created a group of students that have
    no digital literacy whatsoever. If OSPI wants school districts to “address
    connectivity gaps” then maybe OSPI should fund organizations like the Equity
    in Education Coalition — that has been working on a collective change to the
    digital divide that includes solutions to all four of the problems laid out above.
  3. School Meals: There are school districts that only distribute school meals once a
    week. Should you have a family with more than one child, that’s multiple boxes
    of school meals that you have to pick up. If you don’t have a car, you’ll have to
    find a way to get these boxes or have someone deliver them to you. If you can
    speak English well enough to ask someone to help. Also, school districts have
    punted this responsibility to PTA’s, community-based organizations, and local
    faith-based organizations. If OSPI wants school districts to offer meals, they have
    to offer guidance, oversight, and incentive for schools to ensure that students get
    fed. And yes, it kills me that I have to write that schools need to be
    incentivized to FEED OUR KIDS.
  4. “Local data to determine which of their students need additional intensive
    learning supports” is coded language for Special Education students, English
    Language Learners, and Low-Income students. The idea that these students
    should be the canaries in the coal mine that is the face to face classroom is an
    atrocity. There is evidence that education is a traumatic event for some students,
    because of ableism, colorism, racism, homophobia, and bullying. Some
    students do better in face to face classroom
    and that is an absolute fact.
    That decision should be made by the parent, in collaboration with, and full
    partnership of their school district.
  5. This is basically asking every teacher to have an Individualized Education Plan
    (IEP) for every student in their classroom. Without additional support, pay,
    professional development on creating IEP’s, or parental understanding of what
    an IEP entails. Also, why are we limiting our educators in “the classroom” by
    trying to mimic face to face education in the virtual classroom? There are several
    different options that allow for students to learn at their own pace, teachers
    educate at their skill level and in their comfort, and allow for parents and
    guardians to hold students, teachers, and the school district accountable. Why is
    OSPI asking for something as rudimentary as attendance when, as a public
    entity, it can be leading the revolution to how excellent education can be offered
    to every student in this state, regardless of Zip Code, race, or ability.
  6. Again, this is in-the-box thinking for an out-of-the-box pandemic. Why are there
    limitations to the amount of days and hours being put on students when we
    could revolutionize how educational services get delivered to our children, if we
    center how our children best receive educational services.

I get it. We have to go back to work. We have jobs. Not everyone can work from
home. I know parents that are panicking right now because some school districts
have decided to stay virtual and remote for the Fall of 2020. I see you and I
understand.

OSPI should be centering the safety of our children and our families. There is a sense that the desire to “go back to normal” is more important than the safety of our children and our families — some of whom are also educators, staff, and administrators in public schools. Instead of setting new guidelines and changing the goalposts, OSPI should be working with communities of color, equity-based organizations, and parent groups to build solutions that are based on the needs of our children.

We haven’t flattened the curve. The number of new cases is increasing at a rate that indicates it is not safe to return to schools.

There is still a huge lack of masks, hand sanitizer, and understanding. In under 24 hours, the EEC distributed over 18K disposable masks, 9K cloth masks, and 5K bottles of hand sanitizer.

The need is greater than we anticipated. The plans for keeping our schools disinfected are
weak at best.

We are under no illusion that distance learning is going to work for everyone. At all. The
spring of 2020 has shown us just how badly the inequities are within many public institutions.

We know all too well the students that have been failed by the public education system and we see them — working in their families restaurants, helping their families on the farm, taking that job at Target because no one else is hiring. We know families had to make difficult choices, and those choices were made because our system doesn’t center our most marginalized families when solving pandemic problems.

Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders face disproportionately
high rates of COVID-19 infection, illness, and death.

School districts must invest now in the resources necessary to deliver high-quality distance learning, including professional development for educators, connectivity for both students and educators, and caring trained professionals to support families through this challenging time.

Now — TODAY — is the time to focus on anti-racist practices and policies if we are to have
educational justice.

NOW is the time to provide for counselors, family support, nurses, and mental health
supports for both our distance and in-person learning.

NOW is the time to provide professional development to parents, teachers, and students on the learning management systems that school districts will be using in the fall.

NOW is the time to invest in community-based organizations that center the lives and
educational outcomes of students of color, immigrant, refugee, native, and undocumented.

NOW is the time to reimagine what an excellent, student-centered educational system could look like that isn’t confined to a single classroom in a zip code.

NOW is the time to deliver on the promise of the Civil Rights Act and create an educational system that cultivates the best in every student.

NOW is the time to invest in creating an environment where every single student has access to the internet, a working laptop, an understanding of the software, homework, and expectations set by the school.

The EEC is committed to continuing the work with the Governor, the Superintendent of
Public Instruction, public education advocates, educators, principals, county and other elected officials to develop guidance that reflects the revolutionizing of the educational system amid the changing COVID-19 landscape.

Sharonne Navas
Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Equity in Education Coalition
info@eec-wa.org

Press Releases

EEC Statement on Re-opening Schools

No Justice No Peace No Racist Corrupt Police

Ensuring Diversity Works to Undo Institutional Racism

Families Belong Together

We Reject DeVos’ Claim that Schools Can Report Students who are Undocumented

EEC Condemns Trump’s Racism

On McCleary: Fix Tax Code to Fully Fund Education

Betsy DeVos Counter Rally Media Advisory

DACA 2017 Press Release

Equity Rally 2017

McCleary Child Advocates Press Release

Equity in Education ESEA Reauthorization

 

Articles By Us

South Seattle Emerald, January 2018, Sharonne Navas: “Let’s Try This Again Olympia: Fully Fund Education Without Hurting Kids of Color”

International Examiner, October 2017, Velma Veloria: “Why I’m Protesting Betsy DeVos”

Bellevue Reporter, October 2017, Risa Nagel: “Why We’re Protesting Betsy DeVos in Bellevue on Friday”

International Examiner, February 2017, Sigourney Gundy : “Funding Equity: Washingtonians stand together for tax reform”

Real Change, November 2016, Sharonne Navas: “The Every Student Succeeds Act is missing critical community voices”

Seattle Times, February 2014, Sharonne Navas: “Summer learning loss: Make learning fun; provide better reading options”  

 

Speaking engagements

“An Educational State of the Union for Washington State.” Episode 25 of The Nerd Farmer Podcast with 2016 WA State Teacher of the Year Nate Bowling, Seattle Times Education Reporter Claudia Rowe, and OSPI Deputy Superintendent Michaela Miller.

“Together for Equity” — Opening speech of Equity Rally 2017, February 20, 2017. (Video below). 

“Equity, Opportunity, and Funding in Education Seattle Town Hall — presented by Washington State Budget & Policy Center, May 29, 2014. (Video below).

 

“Great Conversations at WSU with Sharonne Navas”  On October 29, 2013, Sharonne Navas was interviewed by Marc Robinson at Washington State University (WSU). In the video, Ms. Navas discuss educational opportunity gaps and her work in the Equity in Education Coalition. Filmed in Casa Latina. This video was produced by the Culture and Heritage Houses and Diversity Education. (Video below).

“Institutional Racism and the Opportunity Gap” — Presented at the School’s Out Washington conference, Illuminating Possibilities for all Youth, October 2013.

“Advancing Racial Equity in the 2015 Legislative Session” — A discussion on how to elevate racial equity in the next legislative session and promote policies that will close the opportunity gap. December 12, 2014.

“Where does the conversation on school discipline go from here?” Seattle Times Chat, June 23, 2015.

“Does Race Still Matter?” 2015 WEA Human & Civil Rights Leadership Conference, November 20, 2015.

“Racial Equity and Cultural Responsiveness,” Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, December 12, 2015.

#EducationSoWhite, Education Lab, Town Hall Seattle, May 2017