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LAE President Statement on Schools Reopening After COVID-19 Crisis

Thursday, June 25, 2020 
Louisiana Senate Committee on Education Committee Hearing 
RE: Testimony of Dr. Tia Mills, President, Louisiana Association of Educators 

Thank you, Chairman Fields, and members of the Senate Committee on Education for this opportunity to offer testimony for this hearing. My name is Dr. Tia Mills, and I am a special education teacher from East Baton Rouge Parish and president of the Louisiana Association of Educators. As LAE’s president, I am honored to represent teachers and education support professionals serving students in Louisiana’s K-12 public schools. LAE also represents educators in the Louisiana Special School District, college students who plan to become educators, and retired educators. My position puts me in constant contact with a wide range of educators—from those in rural towns to others in densely populated urban areas. While we are a diverse group, we share many of the same experiences as well as the belief that all students in our public schools—no matter where they live or their race or ethnicity or family income—should have an education that prepares them to succeed in a diverse world, be good citizens, and contributing members of their communities. That is our fight, and it is my privilege to wage it.  

When it comes to reopening, let me clarify that educators, more than anyone, want students back in classrooms for the 2020-21 School Year. We are eager to look into their eyes and give them the time and attention they need, but we also insist that all decisions about when and how to reopen be rooted in health and safety, with input from frontline educators. We know we will need to provide protective equipment for students and educators; modify classrooms, cafeterias, gyms, auditoriums, playgrounds, and school buses for social distancing; provide disinfecting materials and sanitizing stations; intensify instruction and support for students traumatized by the impact of COVID-19 on their families and communities; and much more.  

We’ve been listening to our members and allies, and recently released guidance on reopening public schools called “All Hands on Deck” because we know that taking this step is not only the best thing for students; it is in the best interest of our nation. Public schools are hubs of activity in many places, where people gather, meet, vote, and access essential support services. They must reopen—but decisions about how and when must be grounded in health experts’ recommendations, with input from educators, and access to protective equipment for students and educators. In all these decisions, we must consider the aspects of racial and social justice and the roles they play in this pandemic as to not inflict more harm on the communities that can least afford to bear it.  

I will end by telling you that members of the LAE have not lost hope that we can come out of this time stronger and most capable of providing every Louisiana student with the opportunity he/she deserves. We can bring forth the fortitude and creativity that will address the fallout from COVID-19 and address the equity challenges that have been plaguing us for generations. We know that we must do something, and the members of the Louisiana Association of Educators stand ready to work with this committee to ensure the safety of students, educators, and communities all across the state.  

Thank you for your time! 

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