Leveraging Collective Bargaining, and Educator and School Staff Voice, to Reopen Schools Safely

Case studies on how AFT affiliates have laid the groundwork for reopening schools safely

AFT leaders are navigating troubled waters. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many schools to switch to remote learning and shuttered large segments of the economy. The failure of political leadership at the federal level has left states, cities and school districts with inadequate funding and a limited capacity to test and trace. Remote learning remains a poor substitute for in-person learning, a view the AFT repeatedly stressed before the pandemic. The pandemic has deepened inequities in public education, leaving the most vulnerable students unable to engage successfully with remote learning platforms. Administrators, under pressure to reopen, too often make decisions about reopening in haste.

As AFT President Randi Weingarten laid out in a November op-ed titled “A Blueprint to Safely Reopen Schools,” we have followed the science and have a road map for what it takes to reopen schools safely.

The AFT has both worked with and learned from our affiliates nationwide. This document provides examples of how AFT affiliates have successfully navigated some of the most pressing issues through bargaining and collaboration with school districts. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but elements of each of these following measures must be part of reopening plans.

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