FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Belinda Drake Statement on Back to School and Work During the Pandemic
Indianapolis, IN – (July 13, 2020)
Indiana’s students, educators, and school communities are only days away from the impossible reality of going back to school while COVID-19 cases escalate across the state. Even though nurses, doctors, and scientists say this isn’t a safe decision, Americans have been told that if we don’t open our schools this fall for in-person learning, critical funding will be withheld from our kids. Politicians have decided that it is an acceptable loss to put so many lives at risk just to boost the economy. Unemployment is at all time highs, people are broke, and they need childcare just to keep a roof over their family’s heads.
The unfortunate reality is that our current leaders have failed all of us. We’ve known about COVID-19 since last December, we’ve been living with schools closed for in person learning since mid-March, and we’ve had just as long to figure out a safe way to educate Hoosier kids during the pandemic. The fact is current leadership has not only failed to control this pandemic, they’ve failed to provide economic relief to the people so we can safely contain COVID, and get back to a new normal. That inaction speaks to a gross level of failed leadership at all levels of government.
We must acknowledge that this comes at no surprise to our education community. For almost 20 years now, our schools have been facing an ongoing assault of extreme underfunding, not enough teachers, too many kids in each classroom, and misguided priorities that center on ISTEP test results instead of student-centered learning. Additionally, our schools have become the primary point of contact for students living with food insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, lack of access to before and after school care, lack of access to personal care supplies, and lack of access to mental and behavioral healthcare.
Every day at our schools, the students, teachers, and staff are expected to do so much more with so much less and COVID-19 has only shown a bright light on this systemic problem of misguided political priorities in our statehouse. In March, our teachers and students were expected to shift into a pandemic crisis education reality over the course of about 48 hours and they did. That is, as much as they were able.
One question begs to be asked, have our leaders done their job and implemented solutions over the past four months that have put Hoosiers in a different position than when we shut schools down in the first place?
Before March 20, our state had not:
- provided all of our kids and teachers with the tools they need to be able to provide e-learning.
- addressed the internet access gap that disproportionately impacts rural and inner-city communities that is needed to be able to provide e-learning.
- addressed the food desert crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities.
- addressed the teacher shortage and teacher pay.
- addressed the childcare crisis in Indiana that impacts the working class and working poor the most.
- addressed the gender pay gap that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities and single parents.
These problems existed before the pandemic and from what I can see, there has been no solutions from our leaders. We can no longer pretend that this insistence on in-person schooling during a deadly pandemic is just about educating students. No, those insisting on in-person schooling when we haven’t contained the virus have a different priority: this is about sending Hoosiers back to work to get the economy going and it is impossible to send young parents back to work if there isn’t childcare.
Governor Holcomb, the fact is the pandemic response has been inadequate and COVID cases are surging again. The impact of this has been disproportionately carried in Black and Brown communities, by senior citizens, and by underpaid essential workers. Approximately 70% of teachers are women and 30% are over 50 years old. You have to address gender pay inequality which carries over to low teacher pay and you must ensure a safe school environment for those at highest risk. Failing to do so means you are causing further harm to already marginalized communities.
I call on you, Governor Holcomb to do better by our Hoosier kids and educators. You cannot just tell everyone to go back to school and then not provide a plan or process on how to do that. As the Governor of the great state of Indiana, it is your responsibility to show real leadership. COVID-19 cases are escalating, and you are insisting on sending kids and teachers back to school. As a result of that decision, you are responsible for delivering a plan that provides guidance and funding on the following issues at a minimum:
- How to provide an adequate supply and reserves of PPE for all students, teachers, and school staff and how to fund it.
- How to address the teacher shortage when they get sick with COVID. With 30% of teachers in the high-risk group of 50+ year old, the state must address what happens when teachers must take sick days and how to fund it.
- How to address teachers who are now being told they have to teach two classes at the same time, online and in-person, and how to fund it.
- How to provide a free and public education for students with IEPs that qualify under Article 7 and how to fund it.
- How to provide in-school dedicated contact tracing to contain and quarantine outbreaks quickly and how to fund it.
- How multi-generational households are to remain safe when sending students to in-person school and how to fund it.
- How to provide school nurses in every school across the state and how to fund it.
- How to provide enough janitorial staff and supplies and how to fund it.
- How school systems are to prepare for tort litigation and how to fund it.
I call on you, Governor Holcomb, to postpone the start of the school year until after Labor Day so you have the time to come up with a cohesive plan.
I call on you to leverage these next six weeks to build a broad-based coalition of educators, healthcare professionals, and those most impacted by in-person pandemic education. This coalition would use their expertise to create a viable plan for in-person schooling to recommend to you. This plan must not only be geared towards education, but also provide solutions for childcare and wrap-around services for students in need.
Indiana must elect serious leaders who are capable of working together to address the problems we face today. Meaningful solutions cannot be created in a silo. To make a better Indiana, there needs to be collaboration with subject matter experts, partnerships with communities who have the most at stake, and an interest in transforming outdated models of governance that no longer work.
As your next State Senator, I will take on these broken systems of government and bring bold solutions that will deliver real results for families and communities.
To learn more about Belinda Drake’s campaign for Indiana State Senate or to get started as a volunteer in the Field Captain program, visit www.belindadrake.com and connect with the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #BelieveINBelinda.
About Belinda Drake for Indiana State Senate:
Belinda Drake is a progressive Democratic candidate for Indiana State Senate in District 32. Committed to putting people over politics, Belinda will serve her communities with a bold and inclusive vision to bring positive change and progress for the people of Senate District 32 and for all Hoosiers. Belinda was born and raised in Gary, IN, and has been a resident and member of the far eastside Indianapolis community for the last 3 years. Belinda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in political science and a minor in legal studies from IUPUI and has worked on the campaign trail for United States Congressman Andre Carson, Indiana State Senator J.D. Ford, City Councilor Crista Carlino, and many other Democratic party candidates at the state and local levels. Belinda has served on the board for the Indiana Stonewall Democrats and as the treasurer for the Lawrence Township Democrats. Belinda currently serves as the 7th District Chair for the Indiana Young Democrats, as the Racial Justice & Diversity Coordinator for Indiana NOW (National Organization for Women), and as a National Delegate for the Indiana Democratic Party to the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
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