AFT-WV Statement on 9-30-20: Union Expresses Lack of Confidence, Plans Next Steps

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AFT-WV is disappointed that, once again, the Governor has misrepresented our position regarding school re-entry metrics.  The 5% positivity rate is only one of six necessary factors in the AFT’s guidance document, A Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities. The Governor continues to cherry-pick the portions of AFT’s public health guidance document to suit his own agenda. ICU capacity rates and a decline in new cases are also part of AFT’s metric recommendations, but you won’t hear him talking about those factors as they don’t fit his narrative.

Quite frankly, this shouldn’t surprise us given his habit of changing the rules midstream. In less than a month, he has altered the color-coded map to the point where it is no longer trusted by the public, school employees or nationally recognized public health experts.

“The public no longer trusts the Governor’s map. In grading the Governor’s performance on this critical test, he receives an F. He is failing to keep West Virginians safe,” stated AFT-WV President Fred Albert.

Despite the Governor’s insistence on the validity of his data, the rapid descent from red or orange to green in a matter of a day or two for several counties leaves us scratching our heads. The introduction of a second statistic and using the lower of the two in the determination of color designation for school systems has further confused the public and eroded trust in the entire map concept. If we are truly erring on the side of caution, why wouldn’t the state use the higher of the two statistics rather than the lower number to determine the color code on the map? Using the lower of the two statistics in determining a school system’s color designation only gives everyone a false sense of security. Until these statistics include a geographic breakdown of COVID cases within every county, it is virtually impossible to assess the true level of risk in each school.

Teachers and staff, as well as parents and students, need a simple, transparent, and consistent system of measurement that reflects COVID cases in their counties.

“Constant changes in the map have given our school employees, parents and students emotional whiplash. Adding a color or moving the target doesn’t make our schools or communities safer. We’ve tried to improve safety and transparency for our schools, but any progress achieved to improve safety by the union is always soon undone. We go one step forward; Governor Justice tweaks the map and drags us two steps back,” explained Albert.

In light of this unproductive and frustrating cycle, all AFT-WV local presidents held an emergency meeting last night to discuss our path moving forward. Local presidents will be reaching out to their members to assess the specific concerns in their counties (as every county re-entry scenario and COVID case rate is different) and gauge what actions the local members are willing to take to address the issues.

“Unlike the Governor’s “map of confusion,” AFT-WV’s message has been consistent since April. We want to go back to our schools, but only when it’s safe for students and staff.  Since the Governor is so fond of quoting one measurement included in AFT’s re-entry document, we propose that he scrap the current map and adopt the nationally vetted AFT guidance plan in full,” said Albert.