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Republican states Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia have dozens of dead teachers and staff


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Since the start of the pandemic one of the most difficult conversations for people on all sides of the political spectrum to get into has been schools. It isn’t a new phenomenon, but like everything else in our COVID-19 times, it has brought the divisions between right and left, private and public, pro-teacher versus people who want teachers to just tell their kids what they themselves were told, discussions about education. While we all say we agree that children are our future and that teachers are some of the most important foundational members of a modern civilization, there is a disconnect in how connected we are with one another. This has made it easier for Republican operatives to organize behind their anti-union, faux pro-parent, anti-vaxxer, anti-mask mandate stance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Places like Tennessee, Florida, and Texas have seen vitriolic protests by right-wing subsidized activists along with smaller groups of parents pushing against safety measures such as mask mandates on school campuses. The results have been predictable. School districts have had to close for quarantines, and worse yet, teachers have died. How many have died has been hard to pin down. Will the conservative pretend doctors who worry about children’s psychology during pandemic virtual learning go back on Fox News to discuss how kids are affected by their teachers dying? Probably not.

Before the first day of school in Florida, four teachers died from COVID-19 in the Broward County school system. According to the Broward County public schools coronavirus dashboard, since the start of the school year, 1,273 students and 435 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. This reported number is, naturally, lower than the actual numbers. Action News in Jacksonville, Florida, reports that since July “at least 15 teachers, staff from Jacksonville area have died of COVID-19.” Six of these teachers died within the last 30 days. Most of the teachers were in their 30s or 40s, some were in their 50s, and two were in their 60s and 70s respectively.


Tennessee has seen at least 14 employees of their public schools die from COVID-19 since the start of the school year. “The deaths occurred between Aug. 8 — when a 59-year-old Fayette County Public Schools teaching assistant died — and Sept. 9, with the passing of the Robertson County school bus driver, corresponding roughly to the first month of the school year for most of Tennessee’s 147 public school districts.” Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s recent career in Tennessee is signing off on LGBTQ discrimination. Surprisingly, this has made absolutely zero people happier and better off in the Volunteer State.

The way conservatives have always run their states (and our government in general) is to break everything, make sure there is not way to figure out exactly what is happening, and then pretend their terrible governance is a figment of propaganda from the left. States like Texas have no state agency tracking school employee deaths due to COVID-19. It makes it a lot easier to say stupid things like, “Grandparents should be willing to die so their grandkids can go to school during a pandemic and your local Olive Garden can stay open,” when there are scattered sources for death count evidence opposing this grotesque position. In May, news outlet WFAA began combing through “news reports, obituaries, fundraising accounts and social media posts,” and found “more than 80 Texas teachers, coaches, custodians, cafeteria workers, counselors, administrators, librarians, bus drivers, and other school employees who died from the coronavirus.”

That was in May.

WSBTV reports that since the start of this school year, “more than 35 Georgia teachers” and staff have lost their lives due to COVID-19. According to the report, the youngest of those tragedies was a 24-year-old assistant basketball coach at Shorter University. As with reports of teacher and school employee deaths across the country, the exact vaccination status of the deceased is not known, but in the majority of cases where it is known, the person had not gotten a shot.

You would be hard-pressed to find parents of school-age children who don’t want their kids to have the opportunity to go back to in-person schooling. You would be hard-pressed to find educators who don’t want to find a way to get back to in-person education. In order to make that happen, we have to compromise. In this case, the compromise is everybody wears masks and we get as many people vaccinated as possible until the areas surrounding our schools don’t have surging COVID-19 cases. Many people would not even call this a compromise—we would call it a common-sense approach to a bad situation.

Maybe if places like Tennessee wasted less money trying to drug test people asking for government assistance and spent more on things like getting more than 75% of students in the Volunteer State internet access, they might have better results in just about every way. In fact, Tennessee could worry more about spending money on schools so that they don’t mistakenly serve meat that’s six years old to their students. True story. I mean, that’s if they care about the children and their health and well-being as much as they scream out loud at school board meetings that they do.

Whether you believe in teacher unions or not, we can all get behind the concept that teachers dying preventable deaths is tragic. According to Education Week, whuch has been trying to update the numbers of educators and personnel who have passed during the pandemic: “As of Sept. 17, 2021, at least 1,116 active and retired K-12 educators and personnel have died of COVID-19. Of those, 361 were active teachers.”