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Teachers Push Back Against State's Early Guidance For Reopening, Brace For Layoffs

BOSTON (CBS) - The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) is pushing back against the state's early guidelines for re-opening schools.

"Schools must be safe, they must be fully staffed, they must be fully funded. And parents and educators must be central to the decision making, right now they are not," said MTA President Merrie Najimy. "You cannot go back to school safely with fewer staff and more requirements."

In a memo sent out to superintendents last week, the state's education commissioner points districts to prepare for possible rules. Among the early guidelines are recommendations for smaller class sizes and requirements to wear face coverings.

This, as educators across the state brace for layoffs.

"It's heartbreaking. I had to tell my daughter that her mother and her favorite teacher were laid off on the same day," said Graciela Mohamedi.

The Brookline physics teacher is one of 360 educators who were pink slipped last month. School officials announced cuts, citing a $6.3M gap in the budget. But last week, after protests and community push-back, the Brookline School Committee said it found ways to close the gap. They agreed to bring back many of those laid off.

"The school committee has made promises in the past. They promised that we would have our retroactive pay in our last paycheck. And when it didn't appear they gave us more excuses as to why not," Mohamedi said. "At this point, my trust in the school committee is shattered. And that's really hard for me because I vote for the school committee. I'm a resident. I'm active in my community."

In Randolph, wellness, arts and music departments took the brunt of dismissals. Jacqueline Carvey is one of 36 educators who received layoff notices. She's been teaching at Randolph High for 13 years.

"I think for all of our kids, in different capacities, our spaces are outlets for them," Carvey said.

In a statement to WBZ-TV, Randolph's superintendent said, "districts across the state are facing severe budget reductions, based upon predictions of potential reductions to local aid of 10-20 percent. And we here in Randolph are not immune," said Thea Stovell. "None of these decisions or reductions were made arbitrarily. All departments have been financially impacted."

Science teacher Jeff Fox is now helping advocate for the district to recall those who've been laid off. More than 2,000 community members are rallying through a 'Support the Students of Randolph' Facebook group. Thousands more have signed a petition imploring leadership find a way to avoid cuts.

"I'm concerned about my colleagues. I definitely want to focus on the impact this will have on students next year," Fox said.

MTA leaders also call the expectation for districts to pay for the own PPE "outrageous." Especially since most are suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

"What we know is that communities of color have the least amount of resources," Najimy said. "They will be unable to do that and once again be the most impacted. We need full funding. The state has enough revenue if they create a progressive tax structure. We can fully fund public education and stop all of the cuts."

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