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Trump has failed to lead at every step of pandemic, economic crisis

White House’s pressure campaign presents a false choice when it comes to reopening schools


WASHINGTON - August 12, 2020 -

President Donald Trump today held a press briefing at the White House as the latest coronavirus relief bill remains stalled in Congress. The following can be attributed to Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, which is the country’s largest union and represents 3 million educators:

“Educators and parents want nothing more than to return to in-person instruction, yet the Trump administration has provided no real plan to educators, school administrators, parents, and students on how to reopen school buildings safely and equitably. In fact, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has boasted that she doesn’t have a national plan for reopening schools, and President Trump has repeated false claims that students are ‘almost immune’ to this deadly virus despite mounting scientific evidence they are not. The actions of the Trump administration are chaotic, and their rhetoric is appallingly reckless. They have failed to lead at every step of this pandemic and ensuing economic crisis.

“The only thing the Trump administration has clearly demonstrated as a priority 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. They have squandered precious time by taking zero steps to ensure schools can open safely or ensure that when the school year does start, students have the resources to continue learning — whether they are on campus, at home or in a hybrid model.

“The reality of their inaction and cavalier demands is this: Students and educators are being threatened and forced to return to unsafe school buildings, school districts are scrambling with contingency plans, and stressed-out parents are left in limbo. K-12 educators and college faculty and staff alike are worried about returning to schools with no safety standards. Educators believe they are viewed as expendable, and they feel forced to choose between their jobs or the health of themselves and their loved ones. Most importantly, traumatized students aren’t receiving equitable tools and resources from the federal government that they need to be successful in this time of unprecedented crisis.

“The White House’s pressure campaign has only presented a false choice between the health of our students and the health of our economy. There is a third choice and that is for Congress to provide the tools and resources that educators need to reopen school buildings safely and equitably. The federal government needs to provide the necessary resources to get the pandemic under control and put in place the necessary protections to prevent a further outbreak. My message to Trump is this: Stop pushing a radical agenda of privatizing education through vouchers and get to work with doing what’s needed to protect students, educators and their families.” 

More resources are available at www.nea.org/covidaction
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About the National Education Association: The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA Communications, smaiers@nea.org