One year after the pandemic started, students in Milwaukee still haven’t returned to classrooms. And a teachers’ union leader is signaling that educators may need to see safety measures, beyond vaccinations, in order for them to return.
Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, is holding classes virtually. The district has a plan to phase-in in-person learning next month.
But in an appearance Sunday on “UpFront,” Amy Mizialko, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, would not say whether the union backs the district’s plan to return to classroom learning in April. “UpFront” is produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“We have always been in support of being in classrooms, in schools, with our students, when we know that it is safe to do so,” Mizialko said.
Vaccinations for teachers started last week. Mizialko said it has been difficult to track how many MPS teachers have received vaccinations because some educators are going to their private medical providers for shots.
“So at this point, are you behind this plan to begin that phased-in approach on April 12? Is the union behind this plan to get kids in the classroom next month?” program host Matt Smith asked.
“…I just want to be clear that all members of the MTEA, are anxious and have been anxious to return to classrooms when it’s safe,” Mizialko said.
She said the MTEA is “anxious to see a plan from the superintendent and the Milwaukee Public Schools that shows a careful, thoughtful, intentional plan that looks at all issues” surrounding a return to in-person learning, including transportation.
“Can you guarantee that MPS students will be in the classroom by the end of April, as the current plan says?” Smith asked again.
“I can’t, because I’m not one of the nine individuals who will make that decision on March 23. That’s our publicly elected school board. I think that vaccinations are a fundamental mitigation, but they are not the only mitigation strategy,” Mizialko said.
Gov. Tony Evers, who maintains that he does not have the authority to order school districts to return to in-person learning, has said it’s not imperative that teachers receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to classrooms.
“I’ll just say that’s a mistake on the governor’s part,” Mizialko said.
In another segment, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the city hopes to break the cycle of violence with its new plan to treat violence as a public health issue.
The city and Public Health Madison & Dane County released a five-year plan last week that they call a roadmap to preventing violence.
The mayor said the new approach, which is data-based and calls for a coordinated response with community partners, would get at “the root causes of violence and crime.”
Smith asked the mayor about the role of police in the new plan.
“As I was reading through this plan and the objectives, there was little or no mention of policing or law enforcement. So I’m curious your thoughts on, is this any attempt to remove policing from a response to violence prevention?” Smith asked.
“No, I think it’s an acknowledgment that what we’ve been doing for decades is not working. Right? And so to only rely on a policing approach is just insufficient. The police response to violent crime is not going anywhere. That’s a key function of police departments,” Rhodes-Conway said.
See more from the program: