The Chatham Education Foundation greatly respects the essential role played by all who serve as educators and caregivers for our community’s children. Not only do they contribute to the growth and development of their charges, they also are vital to the health and well-being of families and the business community.
We understand that providing appropriate safety and health mitigation is a complex issue with many interacting contingencies and that many are in need of relief; however, as advocates for K-12 public schools we believe it is incumbent upon us to urge state and local leaders to address both concerns related to staffing as well as healthy learning environments.
Research recognizes that highly qualified teachers and school leaders are key to student well-being and learning and districts must be able to count on being able to staff classrooms and offices with qualified personnel on a daily basis. As officials call for a return of students to brick and mortar classrooms we believe it is necessary to simultaneously move educators up to a higher priority for COVID-19 vaccinations. This has already been done in many states.
As the WakeEd Partnership suggested, “even if teachers remain in Group 3, they could be prioritized within that group at the county level starting with teachers who are teaching in person now to get the process started.”
A myriad of interacting factors contribute to safe and healthy environments most conducive to learning, particularly related to Covid. Beyond guaranteeing a full compendium of qualified staff in each school these include the ability of districts to provide such prevention and mitigation factors as adequate space, ventilation, approved hygiene and cleaning resources.
A specific commitment to provide sufficient and sustained funding for these resources not only addresses safety and health needs but also serves as a signal to those in -and thinking of entering- the education profession that they are valued. Such investments pay dividends in that they address the real issue of ensuring a sufficient qualified workforce now and into the future. There is already a shortage of educators in the pipeline and decisions made today will affect our students for many years to come.
We urge elected officials at the local and state level to prioritize educators and educational environments as part of the pandemic and recovery efforts. Our students, families and business community deserve nothing less.