AEA urging districts to continue providing emergency sick days for teachers this year

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Teacher union leaders in Alabama are pushing local superintendents and state school leaders to extend paid emergency sick days.

“I don’t think employees should be penalized for what they’re exposed to at work,” said Tracee Binion, Alabama Education Association Representative.

During the 2020 school year, the federal government provided the state with assistance for COVID leave days for school staff as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

But, Union leaders say this year: “The government gave the employers the option to allow them to extend this leave through September 30th of this year. But, the magic word is they could opt-in or not,” said Binion.

Union leaders say this means if a teacher must quarantine multiple times this year and they’ve run out of sick days, those additional quarantine days could be days without pay.

The latest data from the COVID dashboard shows more than 4,000 positive cases were reported in schools this week. That number includes staff who welcomed students into classrooms just a few weeks ago.

“What I see as a long-term problem associated with this is that this could go on all year,” said Binion.

The union sent a letter to the state school board in mid-August regarding the extended COVID-19 leave in hopes of at least having districts continue to opt-in until the end of September.

“I’m working at a local level to try and get our superintendents to provide this type of support,” said Binion.

The union estimates 90% of districts have opted out and it’s working on a comprehensive list of districts’ status on the issue.

Jefferson County’s superintendent says he is looking into the matter and exploring options.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey was not available for a comment Friday.

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