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White House

Trump's School Opening Plan is Deadly

Teachers highlight hypocrisy as morgues occupied by both young and old

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jul 27, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spike across the country, Trump is continuing to demand that schools reopen for in-person classes in just a few short weeks.

At his press briefing last week, Trump spent much of his briefing talking about the importance of reopening schools and said that schools that reopen will get $105 billion in federal help. He also said that in districts that don’t reopen, their federal money should be sent directly to the parents to pay for their children to go to private school. After spending a considerable amount of time talking about putting students and teachers in harm's way, Trump announced that he would not be putting his fellow Republicans in harm's way, instead of cancelling the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention.

In his remarks, Trump said "I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It's just not right," Trump said at the White House. "To have a big convention, it's not the right time. There's nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.”

In response, the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said:

“The president’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. Today he shut down the GOP National Convention in Florida in one breath, while pushing to reopen schools in the next. It seems the lives of kids and teachers are less important to the president than those of GOP delegates. Trump is sowing seeds of chaos and confusion so he can fulfill his and Betsy DeVos’ dream of privatizing and voucherizing public education. He's provided no plan and no funding, and has ignored the health experts. Teachers won’t let him get away with it.”​

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the President of the National Education Association the nation’s largest union, said “For months, educators have been begging for tools and resources that will allow us to return to in-person instruction safely while President Trump’s failure of leadership has allowed the pandemic to rage uncontrolled. Today he told us it’s too dangerous to hold a political convention but it’s not too dangerous to reopen school buildings. Trump also doubled down on his threats to withhold federal funding that is desperately needed to reopen school buildings safely and equitably while pushing vouchers that steal scarce money from public schools when they need it the most. Students, parents, educators, schools, communities deserve better.”

In Florida, which is scheduled to open schools in August, the Florida Education Association has sued the Governor to stop the reopening plan. Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered schools to reopen for five days a week of in-person teaching. The Governor released his plan just as Florida was surpassing New York as the second-worst COVID-19 hotspot in the country and just as the state sees a 23% increase in children being hospitalized for COVID-19.

"Gov. DeSantis needs a reality check, and we are attempting to provide one," Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is surging out of control."

Outside of Florida, schools across the country are grappling with balancing the safety of their students and teachers, with the importance of educating students. With cases surging, many states are considering a hybrid approach that will open schools for some students or on specific days, while also providing distance learning. Other districts in hotspot areas like Los Angeles have announced that they will not reopen their schools to in-person learning until cases subside.

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