The Ohio Federation of Teachers is calling on Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to institute a mask mandate for all Ohio public schools, arguing it would reduce the spread of COVID-19 and allow more schools to remain open for face-to-face instruction.
Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss why mask mandates in Ohio schools are necessary to protect the health of children and teachers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also discussed an upcoming union election at the Worthington Public Libraries, as well as redistricting efforts in Ohio that many argue continue to be heavily gerrymandered.
Science shows masks work despite legislator opposition
In Ohio, the decision whether or not to require masks is currently left up to local school boards. Some districts require teachers and students to wear masks; others make masks optional.
Data on masks in schools makes a highly compelling argument on why they should be required universally throughout Ohio’s schools, Cropper said. Since in-person classes resumed this fall, school districts that have optional mask policies have seen a 54 percent increase in COVID-19 cases. But schools that require masks have only seen a 34 percent increase.
When the Ontario Local School District required masks last school year, 60 students tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the entire year. It began this school district without a mandate, and 64 students tested positive within the first two weeks. The district quickly reinstituted a mask requirement.
The Ohio Federation Of Teachers has called on Gov. DeWine to institute a mask mandate throughout all Ohio public schools. Gov. DeWine has claimed his hands are tied by the legislature. Cropper disagreed, stating it is clearly within his power to institute a mask mandate. While the Ohio legislature may eventually circumvent that mandate by passing new legislation, that would take time.
Cropper pointed out that Ohio legislators are currently considering two bills that would ban mask mandates — legislation they would not be pursuing if it was true the governor’s hands were truly tied.
Ohio’s legislators are playing a political game — appealing to voters who do not like mask requirements even though data clearly demonstrates the benefits for teacher and student safety, Cropper stated.
Worthington Library employees consider unionizing
Cropper also discussed an upcoming union election for Worthington Public Library employees. Over 70 percent of employees signed cards stating they wanted to join a union. The administration declined to challenge the election and fortunately did not employ any union busting tactics, Cropper said.
Nevertheless, it has taken over a year for the election to take place despite overwhelming employee support and little opposition from management. Cropper said that such a drawn out process speaks to the need to pass the Rich Trumka PRO Act.
Ohio redistricting likely to be challenged in court
Cropper also discussed the redistricting efforts in Ohio that many claim continue the same gerrymandering patterns that have plagued the state for decades. The redistricting commission includes five Republicans and two Democrats. Gov. DeWine, a Republican, has publicly stated the new maps are likely unconstitutional and will potentially be challenged in court, despite approving them himself.
Cropper also believes the new maps will be challenged, which will go to the Ohio Supreme Court. She believes the court will ultimately reject the new maps and the redistricting process will start over.