PAGE is here for you – during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. As the pandemic continues to evolve and new concerns and challenges arise, PAGE continues to advocate with lawmakers, district administrators, state education agencies, and all relevant decision-makers to take swift and decisive action to prioritize the health, safety, and emotional well-being of educators and school staff.
Gathered below are links to PAGE advocacy materials. We encourage you to review these materials and return to this page often for updates. PAGE safety-focused advocacy demonstrated through these materials includes but is not limited to:
- Vaccine prioritization for educators and school staff
- Expanding the $1,000 K-12 educator bonus to include Pre-K teachers
- Extensive accommodations for virtual work
- Required face coverings for students and staff
- Expanded paid leave when quarantined – without penalty to accrued sick leave
- Not assigning teachers course loads that require them to perform double duty
- Comprehensive school health and safety plans with clear, well-communicated protocols which encourage school employees to report concerns without retaliation or reprisal
- Delayed in-person opening of schools as long as substantial spread of COVID-19 is present within the community
- Ceasing face-to-face instruction if / when there is substantial spread within the school
- Frequent, transparent reporting of confirmed cases, robust contact tracing, and a clearly defined, well-articulated plan regarding continuation or suspension of face-to-face or virtual-only instruction
- Educator leave with pay due to COVID-19 exposure or infection
- Additional federal funding for Georgia schools
As always, PAGE attorneys are providing targeted, confidential, one-on-one legal counsel and assistance to individual members regarding specific situations and concerns. And your PAGE membership services representatives remain your most direct path to additional information and resources. PAGE attorneys are available at 770-216-8555 / 800-334-6861 (option 1) and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you need the name and contact information of your membership services representative, call 770-216-8555 / 800-334-6861 (option 2) or send an email with your question to email@example.com.
Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker Designation
Frequently Asked Questions
Member Surveys & Educator-Informed Analysis
PAGE-Member Virtual Town Hall with State School Superintendent and GaDOE
Statements & Interviews
August 2021, CBS 46 (Atlanta)
“PAGE encourages vaccination for all school employees on a voluntary basis rather than through mandates. Districts that issue mandates should do so only after securing broad employee support and including appropriate accommodations and alternatives through testing. Vaccine mandates will further hamper school operations in many districts if employees are required to be vaccinated or lose their jobs.”
March 2021, AJC
“‘Today’s anticipated CDC announcement outlining new recommendations for masks and social distancing will provide additional reassurances of safety and greater capacity for students in classrooms – particularly as many Georgia districts have already returned to in-person instruction,’ said Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.”
February 2021, PAGE Statement on Feb. 25
“Today’s announcement regarding educator vaccine eligibility is welcome news. PAGE has advocated strongly with lawmakers and the Department of Public Health to prioritize vaccine availability to Georgia’s educators and school staff as soon as possible. Vaccine access will provide additional health protections for school personnel as they work with students in schools as many have since last fall, or as their districts open school sites to students for the first time since last March. It is essential that the Department of Public Health provide an effective distribution plan for this rollout, and many school districts have already requested to serve as vaccination sites.”
— Craig Harper, PAGE Executive Director
February 2021, Associated Press
“One teacher group, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, released a survey Wednesday showing that two-thirds of nearly 9,000 respondents want to get the vaccine. The survey isn’t scientific because people chose whether to respond on their own instead of as part of a random sample. Among respondents, educators who are older or higher risk were more interested in getting vaccinated, as were educators in metro Atlanta.”
February 2021, Fresh Take Georgia
“Paid parental leave allows parents to focus on meeting children’s needs at a critical time for families,” said Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, in a statement.
February 2021, Georgia Recorder
“Margaret Ciccarelli, director of legislative services for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said after the meeting her organization is against an expansion of vouchers in Georgia, and its potential cost is a big reason why. ‘We reroute already over $136 million annually from public coffers to private schools with little accountability. This would create a third voucher program at a time when all schools and communities are struggling to deal with the ongoing pandemic crisis, so it is not a great time to be contemplating sending more public dollars to private entities,’ she said.”
February 2021, ‘Lawmakers’ on GPB
“It’s a tough time for educators out there in Georgia and across the country,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, Legislative Director for PAGE. “We’ve never asked more, and they’ve never delivered more than in the current pandemic environment. We are afraid, based on our survey data, that we are going to lose more teachers after the hardship of this year, so I think it’s very appropriate for state leaders to focus on bolstering the teacher pipeline.”
January 2021, AJC
“‘It’s a tough time to be an educator and we applaud Gov. Kemp’s effort to enhance the Georgia teacher pipeline,’ said Margaret Ciccarelli, the director of legislative services for PAGE.”
January 2021, AJC
“The Professional Association of Georgia Educators said it is essential to vaccinate educators to keep schools open. ‘We hope state leaders will prioritize teacher vaccination at the absolute first possible opportunity,’ a spokeswoman said.”
January 2021, Associated Press
“’We strongly believe that Pre-K teachers should receive the supplement as well,’ said Claire Suggs, senior legislative policy analyst for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teachers’ group.”
January 2021, NorthFulton.com
“Though deeply challenging, current circumstances [because of COVID] provide an opportunity for policymakers and educators to build on the policies and practices they have already implemented to support public schools.”
Based on the survey results, PAGE recommendations for policymakers include support for student mental health, continuation of efforts to fully fund schools, making Georgia the top state in which to teach by investing in educators, and aligning assessments to meet parent and student needs.
January 2021, AJC
Teachers are anxious, and the vaccinations in Elbert County are welcome news for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “I hope this serves as a road map for other school districts,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, a lawyer with the group, which sent a letter to state health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey Tuesday urging her to prioritize and help coordinate the vaccination of school employees.
January 2021, AJC
“The Professional Association of Georgia Educators supports the prioritization of vaccinating front-line school staffs, including teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, school nutrition workers and substitute teachers,” said Margaret Ciccarelli, the group’s director of legislative services.
January 2021, NorthFulton.com
The state’s largest educator advocacy group is also asking the state to speed up the availability of the vaccination to front line teaching staff. The Professional Association of Teachers (PAGE) represents the state’s 95,000 educators and is working to expedite the vaccination rollout.
“As Georgia public schools struggle to meet the challenges of serving students in face-to-face settings and to protect students, staff, and the families both groups go home to, PAGE supports vaccine prioritization of all Georgia educators,” said Craig Harper, executive director for PAGE.
September 2020, AJC
AJC column acknowledges Warren County superintendent’s concerns over potential change to essential worker status for educators. It also highlights portion of PAGE’s letter to Gov. Kemp on recommendations for modifying guidelines for educators.
September 2020, PAGE Statement on Sept. 3
“PAGE fully agrees with the statement by State School Superintendent Richard Woods in support of students and educators over adhering to federal testing requirements. Georgia’s educators and parents understand that focusing on tests designed for a different reality ignores our present circumstances – and does so at the expense of Georgia’s 1.8 million public school students.”
– Craig Harper, Executive Director
August 2020, AJC
“The Professional Association of Georgia Educators has given some input already and will be giving more, said Margaret Ciccarelli, the group’s legislative services director. She said PAGE was pleased that Kemp ‘did not rush to reclassify educators’ as workers who need not quarantine. She said the group wants ‘more robust’ virus reporting in schools and stronger paid leave policies for educators exposed to the virus.”
August 2020, Associated Press
“All of us would prefer that schools could open, stay open, and return to their place as a vital center of community life. However, ignoring the high probability of continued community spread through elimination of quarantine protocols ensures prolonged health and safety issues for all Georgians,” Executive Director Craig Harper wrote in an accompanying letter.
August 2020, WSB
Margaret Ciccarelli, PAGE Director of Legislative Services, shares Georgia educator concerns with WSB TV.
August 2020, WSB
“We are hearing from hundreds of educators around the state who have deep concerns about schools opening. Our educators want to go back to schools, but the question of when they go back and how they go back is critical right now,” [Margaret] Ciccarelli [PAGE Director of Legislative Services] said. “We’re hearing from more educators and districts who are either already open for face-to-face instruction or who have announced plans to resume face-to-face instruction soon. Teachers in those districts are concerned that the districts are not making accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act for conditions that the teachers have that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus. They’re also concerned if they’re providing virtual instruction that districts are requiring them to come in onto school sites to provide that virtual instruction.”
August 2020, WGXA
“Educators are doing their best to serve students during the pandemic but these are complicated times and it’s important that they have an advocacy group,” Margaret Ciccarelli [PAGE Director of Legislative Services] says. “They’re concerned but they want to come back. The survey data indicates that. But how and when are what the controversies are here.”
July 2020, The Red & Black
“About one in five Georgia teachers are uncertain about returning to the classroom this fall, according to a survey of roughly 16,000 educators conducted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). ‘No one has ever been down this road before,’ Claire Suggs, senior education policy analyst for PAGE, said. ‘It’s really important that there be open and clear dialogue…The end goal is for everyone to be back at school,’ Suggs said. ‘That’s what teachers want, that’s what families want, that’s what students want. But we want to do it as safely as possible.’”
July 2020, Georgia Recorder
“’Returning to Georgia’s classrooms is an important step in adapting to the continued presence of COVID-19. However, doing so must be accomplished in measured ways that provide the safest possible environment for educators and students,’ [said Craig Harper, PAGE executive director]. ‘Local school leaders are making informed decisions about when it is safe to open campuses, and many have determined that virtual instruction is the best, safest option for their communities. Georgia educators have a strong desire to reunite with students in classrooms, however, that desire is matched by their equally strong expectations that doing so will occur according to a process and timeline that protects the health and safety of all involved.’”
July 2020, AJC
“After surveying its members and discussing the state situation, PAGE released its own recommendations…In a statement, PAGE said, ‘Following these recommendations offers multiple benefits including time for the increase in COVID-19 cases to subside, and for determining the appropriate school opening strategy. A delayed opening also provides more time for safety planning, robust communication with educators, and training on safety and instructional plans.’”
July 2020, AJC
“‘While the information released today provides some helpful guidance about preventing COVID-19 spread within open schools, Georgia’s Path to Recovery does not provide critical guidance regarding how district leaders should determine the safest and most appropriate way schools should begin the year,’ the organization of nearly 100,000 educators said in a statement. ‘COVID-19 spread in broader local communities within which schools operate should inform school opening decisions in conjunction with the actual cases of COVID-19 and exposure inside of a school.’”
July 2020, AJC
“‘They don’t currently feel that their district plans appropriately respond to the risk,’ (PAGE Legislative Director Margaret) Ciccarelli said. Among those who identified themselves as high risk for complications of infection, 67% felt their district’s plan was inadequate.”
July 2020, ‘Political Rewind’ Podcast on GPB
“‘Educators responding to the [PAGE] survey indicated a high level of trepidation about returning to school…Those who work in a district that has announced local opening plans are concerned that those don’t fully protect students and teachers as they come back to the building,’ said PAGE director of Legislative Services (Margaret Ciccarelli). More survey analysis and advocacy to come.”
June 2020, Georgia Recorder
“Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said he was encouraged by efforts to protect some student services. But he said schools will be hard-pressed to provide online learning access, academic remediation, and personal protective equipment with the overall proposed cuts. ‘PAGE encourages policymakers at federal, state, and local levels to work toward solutions that minimize negative impacts on students, schools, and educators,’ Harper said.”
May 2020, AJC
“‘We are encouraged by Gwinnett County Public Schools’ announcement today of an anticipated revision to their controversial plan for returning employees to on-site work,’ said Professional Association of Georgia Educators Executive Director Craig Harper. ‘PAGE has been in close contact with GCPS administration on this issue – conveying employee concerns to the superintendent and urging the district to amend the policy to prioritize the health and well-being of educators and school personnel. State School Superintendent Richard Woods and school leaders throughout Georgia have consistently recommended compassion over compliance in these unprecedented times.’”
May 2020, AJC
“Craig Harper, executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators the state’s largest teacher group, said: ‘We know the hard economic reality of this unprecedented situation will impact public education and educators. Schools and educators meet critical and essential needs of children and families in every community. PAGE encourages legislators at state and federal levels to do everything possible to ensure that doors are open for a full school year with the staff, resources, and safety measures necessary to fulfill this vital function.’”
April 2020, AJC
“Over a third of the more than 15,000 respondents to the Professional Association of Georgia Educators survey said getting students online was their biggest challenge, Executive Director Craig Harper said. About 1 in 5 said their biggest problem was converting their lessons to an online format.”