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CO Teachers Paying for PPE Out of Pocket

At least $116 billion is needed to equip public schools - with masks, plexiglass, cleaning supplies, test kits and other safety measures - to stop COVID-19's spread. (Olgierd Rudak/Flickr)
At least $116 billion is needed to equip public schools - with masks, plexiglass, cleaning supplies, test kits and other safety measures - to stop COVID-19's spread. (Olgierd Rudak/Flickr)
August 13, 2020

DENVER -- As students head back to school, some Colorado teachers are raising their hands with safety concerns.

Kevin DiPasquale, a Denver-area 8th-grade STEM teacher and member of the American Federation of Teachers Colorado, said he's eager to be back in a classroom with his students. But he does not believe all schools are prepared to reopen safely, due to a lack of resources and the absence of a cohesive national strategy.

DiPasquale said teachers have had to find their own personal protective equipment (PPE) and pay out of pocket.

"Today I picked up face shields for masks for further PPE protection, and my students are coming on Monday," DiPasquale said. "The rest of my building is still waiting for Plexiglas dividers."

Safety concerns over reopening schools have been downplayed by the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump has claimed the coronavirus does not pose a large risk for children. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has stated, without evidence, children block COVID-19.

In the final two weeks of July, more than 97,000 U.S. children tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association. At least 86 children have died from COVID-19 since May.

DiPasquale does not think risks to children should be taken lightly.

"When we have certain areas of our country that are shutting down because it's just not safe, but schools are being encouraged or even sometimes strong-armed into opening, it points to a larger issue of the value of education and educators in our country today," DiPasquale said.

The American Federation of Teachers estimates at least $116 billion is needed for masks, plastic shields, cleaning supplies, test kits and other safety measures, to stop the virus' spread.

In May, the U.S. House passed the HEROES Act, which included funding for schools, but aid packages stalled in the Senate.

President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders last weekend, but none addressed public school funding.

In the meantime, DiPasquale said teachers and staff will do their best, and bear extra costs, to stay safe.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO