OPINION: Trump, DeVos ignoring educators on what it will take to reopen schools safely

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By LILY ESKELSEN GARCÍA
President
National Education Association

Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms and on college campuses with our students, but we must do it in a way that keeps students, educators and communities safe. The reality is no one should listen to Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos when it comes to what is best for students.

Trump has not once proven credible, compassionate or thoughtful when it comes to this pandemic. He ignored our intelligence agencies warning him of the pandemic. He blatantly ignores doctors and nurses on how to tackle the virus. He ignores local leaders about reopening the economy safely. He ignores educators on what it will take to reopen schools and colleges safely. Trump has proven to be incapable of grasping that people are dying — that more than 130,000 Americans have already died. Instead, everything is about his re-election. Our number one priority is that we keep our students safe.

DIRECT ASSAULT ON OUR NATION’S CHILDREN
The Trump administration’s clearly demonstrated priority during this crisis is to push their radical agenda of voucher schemes to privatize public education by any means necessary, including funneling coronavirus relief funds from public schools to wealthy private schools. It should escape no one’s attention that vouchers all too frequently have been used to further segregation and promote discrimination.

In fact, the historical origins of vouchers can be found in a Virginia county that shut down its public schools and opened white-only academies to avoid integrating schools as required after Brown v. Board of Education. And now DeVos and Trump are asking Congress to fund dollar-for-dollar tax credits for businesses to fund school vouchers in the next COVID-19 relief package, even after these businesses just received billions of dollars in relief funding. This is a direct assault on our nation’s children.

HAVE PROVEN THEY DON’T CARE
If Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have proven anything over the past four years, it’s that they do not care about students. They have zero credibility for how to best support students, and how to re-open classrooms safely.

I dare Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos to sit in that classroom where the kids don’t have what they need to be safe, and the school doesn’t have enough money to provide a hotspot or a device for them because of the Senate’s failure to finish their job. Where they, and educators, don’t have the masks and PPE they need. Where they can’t socially distance because there are 40 kids in the class. And then see how they feel about cavalierly demanding that schools reopen in an unsafe manner.

America must listen to the health experts on when to reopen schools and to educators on how to return to in-person instruction.

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