By Amanda Menas
From the first day of the Republican National Convention, there were stark differences from the previous week’s speeches and messages directed at educators, parents, and students at the Democratic National Convention. Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris have focused on listening to educators and supporting public schools. President Trump hounded on privatization as the way forward while he, Republicans in Congress, and those speaking at the RNC failed to take the global pandemic seriously. Educators know that without safely reopening schools by providing necessary funding and equipment for educators and students, the economy will not recover. During the coronavirus pandemic, the lives of students and educators are at risk with no support — now is not the time to play politics with our students’ futures.
President Trump during his acceptance speech said that if reelected, he would expand charter schools and voucher programs that take money from public schools, even though Congress has continuously rejected the administration’s voucher schemes. Vouchers and tax credits were a main talking point throughout the RNC, but with the backdrop of national protests against racist institutions, Trump ignored the fact that these policies leave out students of color and families who cannot afford a private education. Just prior to the start of the RNC, the Trump Administration released it’s second term agenda which only listed two priorities for the education sector: voucher schemes and “teach American exceptionalism”.
Last week, Biden and the DNC focused on supporting public education. He emphasized his ability and experience in leading during a pandemic, and his dream of building together a more equitable version of America.
“It’s time for us, for we, the people, to come together. And make no mistake. United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America,” said Biden. The platform throughout the DNC underscored respect for public employees, including educators, and listening to working families. Biden also has reiterated that educators need new leadership from the Department of Education, promising to fire Betsy DeVos and replace her with a classroom educator.
Republicans touted their voucher schemes that take scarce funding from public schools and ignored the pandemic
Vouchers take scarce funding from public schools and give it to private and religious schools that are unaccountable and inaccessible to the public. They have been championed by the unqualified Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from day one of this term; however, she is even too toxic within her own party to receive a speaking role during the RNC. DeVos has promoted state-wide voucher schemes, such as those in Montana, that have drained hundreds of millions of dollars away from public school students to pay the private school tuition of a select few, while producing abysmal results for students. The Republican platform has nothing to offer public schools or students — just the same agenda to privatize.
Trump also lied about Joe Biden’s policies on vouchers and charter schools, as well as the economy. Biden has promised to hold charter schools accountable because of their tendencies toward fraud and mismanagement. Instead of supporting corporations in the wake of the pandemic and ignoring the important economic legislation proposed in the HEROES Act as Trump has, Biden has proposed a multifaceted economic plan that would save and create millions of new jobs, provide safe schools and relief for working families, and ensure an “economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead.”
The four day event featured attacks on public service employees and unions. Rebecca Friedrichs, an anti-union and anti-public school extremist, spoke on the first night, only to lie about educators and unions on a national platform. Donald Trump Jr. continued to attack educator unions and advocate for vouchers instead of calling for investments in public schools where 90 percent of our children attend. They made it clear that the Republican party does not respect our public schools or our public school educators.
Biden, on the other hand, has prioritized educators during the pandemic, urging policies that allow them to decide how K-12 schools and higher education institutions should reopen and pushing for an equitable recovery for all. Biden’s support for educator unions has engaged educators in record numbers during his 2020 presidential campaign, making it clear that public education is a priority for his administration and path to the White House.
Trump has failed time and time again to ensure all students have access to quality education, regardless of zip code. His administration has hurt the futures of immigrant students, stripped rights from LGBTQ+ students, and refused to acknowledge the harm his racist statements do to Black and Brown students every day. His speech at the RNC was no different as he ignored how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted students and families of color.
“Remember: every example of violence Donald Trump decries has happened on his watch. Under his leadership. During his presidency,” tweeted Biden following Trump’s speech.
Biden knows our economy will not rebound if we do not address the immediate health crisis and prioritize support for students, educators, and their families. The impacts of the economic recession spurred by the coronavirus pandemic are devastating communities, and hitting families of color and rural communities the hardest. In the absence of leadership from Trump and surges in COVID-19 cases, calls have gone unanswered to provide economic relief to families, schools and campuses, and small businesses. COVID-19 deaths have reached more than 180,000, becoming the third leading cause of death in the country, but the RNC was just a show to please Trump, who has said that the “economy is going to set records.”