HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - The largest teachers union in Connecticut said the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to widen the gap between the state’s highest and lowest performing school districts.
The Connecticut Education Association released the results of a survey at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
It revealed how most Connecticut teachers said dozens of districts are facing a crisis. They claim educators don't have the funding, personal protective equipment supply, or safety resources they need to keep students safe.
The CEA asked 2,000 educators about the challenges they face every day trying to help students learn and stay safe during a pandemic. Some of their opinions were startling, particularly in the state's alliance districts, which are the 33 worst-performing districts in Connecticut.
According to the survey 78 percent of teachers in those districts said their buildings and classrooms are not properly ventilated, and less than half, 49 percent of alliance district educators, said their classrooms are cleaned and disinfected every day. Perhaps most frighteningly, 61 percent of alliance district educators felt there were no effective strategies being implemented to engage students who were absent or disengaged. Also, 48 percent of teachers in alliance districts said they are not provided with adequate PPE. That number is just 38 percent in higher performing districts.
Also troubling according to the report, a lack of technology.
More than half of teachers said they are not receiving the services and supplies they need for distance learning; and, more than a quarter said their students don't even have the computer devices they need.
Perhaps the most surprising is that more than a third of teachers said their students don't have internet access.
In a written statement, CEA president Jeff Leake said the state must give teachers the tools they need to protect themselves and their students.
He wrote “These issues are most severe in our lowest-performing school districts. We must demand changes in policies, programs, and practices that condone or ignore unequal justice and hinder student success.”
Read the results of the entire survey here.
In response to the survey, the Connecticut State Department of Education released what the state has done when it comes to getting students back to school.
“Since last spring, the State of Connecticut has been working aggressively to address the educational emergency that is exacerbating inequities due to the ongoing pandemic. The state’s actions and investments in our students and educators demonstrate our continued commitment to ensuring equity and access by reducing barriers to learning while prioritizing the health and safety of our school communities,” it said, then listing several bullet points that outline measures taken to keep students and staff members safe.
It said the state has provided options for in-person learning and providing additional funding and resources for districts.
The State Department of Education said according to research, Connecticut is one of a few states that has taken action to address the digital divide, including giving laptops to students in need, and launching a program to purchase internet for homes and provide public hotspots.
“While we are in the midst of a pandemic and there is always more to be done, Connecticut students are attending school in-person (34%) at a higher percentage in comparison to neighboring states such as MA (4%), RI (25%), NY (18%) and NJ (10%). We are proud of our district and school leaders’ efforts to prioritize equity and access, and implement mitigation strategies to allow for in-person learning,” the department said.
Gov. Ned Lamont is also responding, saying those findings show their need for in-person classes, even in the pandemic.
"Hybrid is not as good as in-person learning, hybrid as not as good as being with your teacher," Lamont said.