Are Teachers Essential Employees?
We are having many discussions on whether we should open the schools or not. I think it’s essential to review whether or not teachers are considered essential employees, much like doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, supermarket store workers, marijuana shop employees, and many more. There are 14 essential employment categories listed by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Employees that fall under these categories are referred to as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” and are generally required to deliver services around the clock.
I call your attention to classification #10 Community-based government operations and essential functions. This category refers to critical government workers, as defined by the employer. These can include elections personnel, building employees, security employees, trade officials, weather forecasters, customs workers, and educators.
Let’s look at the last word in the list, educators. In the 2017–18 school year, there were 3.5 million full- and part-time public school teachers, including nearly 1.8 million elementary school teachers and almost 1.8 million secondary school teachers. Overall, the number of public school teachers in 2017–18 was 18 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (3.0 million). These changes were accompanied by an 8 percent increase in public school enrollment in kindergarten through 12th grade, from 45.5 million students in the fall 1999 to 49.1 million in the fall 2017. At the elementary school level, the number of teachers was 11 percent higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 (1.6 million), while at the secondary school level, the number of teachers was 26 percent higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 (1.4 million).
If people in all of the 14 categories are working under the same DHS critical environment, then why can’t teachers teach? People working in supermarkets serve 32 million customers a day. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, 65 workers have died, and 9,810 have gotten sick, says President Marc Perrone. If we have 32 million shoppers a day, we have about 1 billion shoppers per month. Over the last 5 months, we could have had 5 billion visits to the markets with only 65 deaths. I also must ask how many employees in those supermarkets died of something else?
All lives matter though, and the 65 who passed away represent a tragic loss to their family members and the community, but the percentage of deaths to visits is very small and almost can’t be measured. More on this issue in a future commentary; however, the point is the more people one comes in contact with, there is potentially the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Children in public schools are reported to have the least number of infections, so the chances of catching the virus are less.
If teachers are genuinely Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, then I think we should ask them to do their job first setting standards for their protection and then reopening the schools. Researchers agree that children are not contracting the new coronavirus at the same rate as adults. In fact, according to the CDC, children under the age of 18 accounted for less than 2% of reported cases of Covid-19 in China, Italy, and the United States.
If we require PPE equipment for the teachers and students, then let’s get it so we can open the schools. That is not to say that some children, teachers, or staff will not get sick and unfortunately a small number will die. This is what the CDC says about reopening schools, “The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults. To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19-related deaths.”
Most public schools in the United States are funded by real estate taxes. If parents are not able to work from home, they may well lose their jobs. Staying home to care for children will mean the amount of household income will diminish, and the default in the payments of real estate taxes will start to increase. The Tax Policy Centers estimates that tax revenue at the state and local levels will decline by $200 billion by the end of 2021.
The longer we take to reopen our schools, along with businesses, the more we will see accelerating declines in tax revenue. Shrinking tax revenue will force state and local governments to reduce headcount costs through a Reduction in Force. More and more people will lose their jobs, regardless of union contracts. Teachers can help save the children, the economy, and their jobs by going back to work.
One last thought
We have in excess of 6.1 million employees in the public school system in the United States. 3,000,000 are non-classroom workers, bus drivers, administrators, custodians, cafetiere works all who come in contact with students every day. I have seen the demands by the teachers unions and I can’t seem to find any stories of teachers unions concern about the other 3,000,000 workers. Any plan to re-open the schools has to provide protection for these at risk people in our schools.
Dan Perkins is a published author of 4 novels on nuclear and biological terrorism against the United States and is a current events commentator for over 20+ news blogs. He recently has had commentaries posted on Medium and Conservative Truth, among others. He appears on radio and TV regularly many times a month. Dan’s newest show is called “America’s Cannabis Conversation,” on the W420radionetwork.com. His latest entrance in communications is his first Pod Cast called “What’s on My Mind?” This can be heard on SoundCloud; just look for the name of the show or Dan Perkins. More information on Perkins can be found on his web site: danperkins.guru