The COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately impacted Black and brown workers and families. Additionally, Black and brown workers make up an inordinate percentage of our schools’ hourly school employees which includes child care workers, paraprofessionals, educators and school support staff.
The Education Minnesota Foundation for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Education Minnesota, SEIU Local 284 and ISAIAH’s Kids Count On Us Coalition created a fund to help school workers, child care workers and educators who have been laid off by their districts, under the threat of being laid off or have had to close their child care centers due to the current COVID-19 crisis.
Donations are still being accepted at https://edmn.me/ReliefFund.
“These educators and caregivers don’t get the respect or wages they deserve during good times, and they are the first to lose pay or face layoffs during a crisis,” said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht when the fund was launched. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and the school closures that have come along with it have threatened the economic security of tens of thousands of school employees and child care workers.”
“My friends, neighbors and colleagues are dealing with two pandemics,” said Kiarra Zackery, an educator and care advocate with ISAIAH’s Kids Count on Us Coalition. “One is centuries old and one is new – COVID-19 and systemic racism. My community is pulling together like they never have before. You can’t drive down the street without seeing pop-up food shelves and free essential supplies. But even if your pantry is full, that’s not going to pay the rent or keep the lights on.”
Now the fund is creating an application for school and child care workers from the three partner organizations.
Education support professionals from Education Minnesota may apply if they have been financially impacted by COVID-19, such as loss of hours, being laid off or furloughed.
The partnership of these organizations has come from a year-long work group of educators looking at the early childhood education system in Minnesota.
“We’ve been looking at inequities both in access to child care and early childhood programming for parents and students, but also that the teachers aren’t treated as teachers,” said Rachel Johnson, a kindergarten teacher in New Prague. “Birth to age 5 is the most important for setting the foundation for learning.”
Johnson and other members of the team from Education Minnesota and ISAIAH’s Kids Count on Us Coalition were set to travel to other states to see their early childhood education systems operated, but the pandemic has halted that travel.
The funds that had been set aside to pay for those trips became the basis for the relief fund. The group is still working on their research paper which will be shared in the coming year.
“We knew we could be lifting up those workers,” said Johnson. “They care so much for children and they do so much for our communities. They give up so much and are committed to education and our communities. There’s so much uncertainty with everyone’s financial situations. We want to provide a safety net if they need it.”
Applications and more information on the fund is available at https://edmn.me/ReliefFund.