Nancy Shively, a Tulsa, Oklahoma special education teacher and “lifelong Republican who reluctantly voted for Donald Trump in 2016,” said in an op-ed for USA Today that “When the pandemic hit, the incompetence of the man for whom I had voted and the complicity of everyone around him forced me to admit that I could no longer maintain any kind of self-respect as a Republican.”
“So even though I had voted Republican in every presidential election since 1976, I changed my voter registration to independent and I will be voting for Joe Biden in November,” she added. “Nevertheless, I am still haunted because, deep down, I fear that with that vote I may have signed my own death warrant.” (Shively notes that she is over 60, lives with autoimmune disorders, and happens to live near the site of a controversial rally President Trump hosted in Tulsa last month.)
“This outbreak has me worried as it is. Now, with the prospect of schools reopening in a few short weeks, I am terrified,” she writes, relaying the story of a colleague who is similarly worried, can’t quit her job, and is planning to increase her life insurance and “hope for the best.”
Shively takes the federal government to task for having “long devalued and underpaid teachers” while at the same time expecting them to rise to the occasion.
“Our country has long devalued and underpaid teachers, refusing to adequately fund the public schools that support our democracy. At the same time, teachers routinely have to use their own money to buy classroom supplies,” she says. “Now the government is turning to us to risk our health or possibly our lives during a pandemic. My school district has no mask mandate and two nurses for more than 2,400 students in 5 school buildings. How is that going to work?”
“Officials from the president down to the local school board are kicking this can down the road, pretending it will all be OK. Teachers know it won’t,” she says.
Shively calls for readers to listen to scientists and public health experts, noting that she hears “proponents of opening schools suggesting that children are less likely to contract or die from COVID-19. That’s all well and good until you or your child are the one who ends up on the wrong side of that statistic.”
“Most of us would do anything to help our students succeed. So now the man I gambled on to be president is asking us to risk our health and our very lives,” she concludes. “The odds are most definitely not in our favor.”