EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress July 12, 2020

Parents and educators say schools must reopen safely

The Trump administration is pushing to reopen school buildings and college campuses even if it means violating the administration’s own safety guidelines. The president tweeted that Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for reopening safely are “very impractical things.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she is thinking “very seriously” about withholding federal funds from schools that don’t open their doors and, once again, trying to advance her failed voucher agenda. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told international college students they must take in-person classes or risk being deported.

In contrast, parents and educators are stressing the need to reopen schools and campuses safely. “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 reopen classrooms safely,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “America must listen to the health experts on when to reopen schools and to educators on how to return to in-person instruction.”

A joint statement by leading education and parent organizations, including NEA and the National PTA, said we need to reopen schools in “the safest way possible, not the most politically expedient way.” The group called for a comprehensive plan that includes proven approaches to containing the coronavirus like personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing.

NEA’s priorities for the next coronavirus package include at least $175 billion to stabilize education funding, at least $56 million in directed funding for PPE, at least $4 billion to equip students with hot spots and devices to help narrow the digital divide and close the homework gap, relief for student loan borrowers, and at least $4 billion to protect voting rights and make voting by mail more widely available. TAKE ACTION


Cheers and Jeers

Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the 1619 Act to increase awareness and understanding of African American history across our schools through expanded access to programming from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) called the administration’s push to reopen schools “premature” and said, “Reopening schools now, without more investment, presents serious risks to the health and safety of our students and educators.”

Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) called the administration’s attempts to bully schools into reopening “irresponsible” and said, “As a mom, and a grandmother, the thought of using students’ safety as a bargaining chip is truly appalling—and I hope Senate Republicans don’t stoop to that level just because the President wants to.”

Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and John Katko (R-NY) led a bipartisan letter urging congressional leaders to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to address rising food insecurity and unprecedented demand at food banks due to COVID-19.

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