Trump and DeVos have failed educators and students on COVID-19. It didn’t have to be this way.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for students, our schools, our economy, and our nation’s families, especially families of color. While physically opening schools at the beginning of the 2020–2021 school year has been the goal of most districts, the decision of when to reopen school buildings must be rooted in health and safety and not based on an arbitrary start date or any other priority. However, President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have threatened to withhold funding from our nation’s public schools, hindered the ability of students to be safe in classrooms and on campuses, and furthered discriminatory practices that are detrimental to productive learning environments.
Scroll through this timeline to see how Trump and DeVos have left students and educators in the dark during the coronavirus pandemic, and what former Vice President Joe Biden is doing to step up and lead.
October 25, 2019
Biden sounds alerts that we are unprepared for a pandemic.
On Twitter months before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Biden wrote, “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.”
Trump claims “We have it totally under control.”
One day after the first American tested positive for COVID-19, Trump begins playing down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and the impending toll it would take on the country.
Joe Biden writes Op-Ed warning of COVID.
Biden writes of his experience with the Ebola epidemic, and warns that, “Trump’s demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge.”
Trump privately admits virus is spread through the air, withholds from the public. While downplaying the threat in public, Trump admits to Bob Woodward “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
Trump outlandishly claims COVID-19 will be good for the U.S. Economy.
Saying that business and travel will continue, Trump promoted buying American instead of “spending the money in other countries.” He continued, “And maybe that’s one of the reasons the job numbers are so good. We’ve had a lot of travel inside the USA.” The rates of joblessness and unemployment began to skyrocket within the week.
Top health official says America is failing handling of pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Congress that the country does not have sufficient testing. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” he said. The next day, Trump deflected saying, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” for this lack of testing.
Biden releases plan for future pandemics.
Joe Biden laid out a detailed plan to mount a decisive public health and economic response to prepare for future global health threats.
Trump privately admits politicizing pandemic.
Trump told journalist Bob Woodward, “To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” This lack of leadership has continued throughout the handling of the crisis.
Trump says America should reopen without protections.
Trump said “I’m also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter – that beautiful Easter day,” pushing for a reopening by the holiday.
DeVos speaks during pandemic for the first time, only to push vouchers instead of a plan.
During a White House COVID-19 press conference, DeVos announced a proposal for “microgrants” that sounded eerily similar to private school vouchers. Her attempt to use the pandemic to push her failed privatization agenda comes has she has remained silent on issues such as the homework gap and local education funding.
Biden leads in calling for national distribution of medical materials.
Joe Biden called on Trump to appoint and fully empower a Supply Commander to coordinate critical materials to all states, territories, and tribes. Trump continued to refuse to do this or implement the Defense Production Act, which Biden also previously called on him to do.
Trump claims “I couldn’t have done it any better.”
When asked about the continued loss of life and economic downturn, Trump believes he did everything in his power to help Americans, though he refused to provide funding, PPE, and other life-saving measures to communities and professions in need.
Biden discusses racial inequities of COVID-19.
Biden called for comprehensive data to ensure that communities of color received necessary resources.
Biden releases plans for businesses and essential workers.
With Trump pushing a false choice between protecting the health or the economy, Biden instead called on Trump to ensure relief funds are distributed to cash-strapped small businesses, laying out steps to make that happen. He also announced a four-point plan for essential workers, and a plan to increase employment insurance. He asked, “Where is Trump’s plan?”
Trump suggests people should inject bleach in their lungs.
After claiming that unproven drug hydroxychloroquine could help prevent COVID-19, Trump said scientists should look at cleaning “in the lungs”. An Arizona man had died in March after watching a Trump briefing and ingesting chloroquine phosphate.
Biden announces plans to aid families, workers.
Joe Biden worked with health advisors and scientists to release a plan for testing, tracing, and workplace protection. He also called for greater support for women and families in this crisis, including emergency child care assistance.
Trump pushes for schools to reopen without a plan.
Urging the nation’s governors to “seriously consider” reopening schools, Trump says he trusts his gut when it comes to COVID-19 relief. Educators across the country rejected this suggestion.
Trump watered down CDC school reopening guidelines.
Trump again attempted to deceive the American public, disregard the safety of students, and ignore the wellbeing of educators by showing only a flimsy flowchart during a White House meeting.
Trump declares victory over the pandemic.
Claiming “We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” Trump ignored the rising death toll in the country and around the world.
Biden releases plan to jumpstart economy.
After months of Trump’s persistent failures that led to nearly 26 percent of America’s workforce to lose their jobs, Biden’s plan would help bring the 20 million newly unemployed Americans back to work. He later provided an updated plan for getting the virus under control.
Trump admits ordering federal government to slow down testing.
Trump told reporters, “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.'”
Jill Biden hears educators top concerns around reopening schools.
Dr. Biden hosted a virtual listening event to speak with educators as the 2019-2020 school year ended and educators planned for the upcoming semester.
Trump and DeVos push for $5 billion voucher program in COVID-19 relief bill.
The Trump Administration again moved to use the coronavirus pandemic to funnel relief funds from public schools to wealthy private schools, asking Congress to fund dollar-for-dollar tax credits for businesses to fund school vouchers, even after these businesses have just received billions of dollars in relief funding. Former NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said it was “a direct assault on our nation’s children.”
Biden took time to speak with NEA members about pandemic.
Telling educators, “You are the most important profession in the United States,” Biden spoke about his plan to combat the pandemic, dismantle systemic racism, and more.
Trump holds White House event to demand students and educators return to unsafe classrooms.
Along with DeVos who says education leaders wouldn’t accept risk or “gave up and didn’t try” to launch in person instruction during the summer, Trump’s last minute push attempted to “put pressure on governors to reopen schools for in-person learning. DeVos said, “Education leaders need to examine real data and weigh risk. … Risk is involved in everything we do, from learning to ride a bike to riding a rocket into space and everything in between.”
Trump undermines CDC school reopening guidelines, DeVos agrees.
“I disagree with [the CDC] on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!,” Trump said on Twitter. At the COVID-19 press briefing, DeVos simply said, “Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools should reopen — it is simply a matter of how,” and accused adults of “fearmongering.”
With no plan, DeVos threatens funding to pressures schools to fully reopen, claiming it is “in no way dangerous” for kids.
Betsy DeVos threatens to cut off funds to public schools that don’t fully open in the fall and suggests that those funds could be diverted to private and religious schools. When pressed about whether or not she has a plan for safely reopening schools, DeVos was unable to answer.
WH on schools reopening: “The science should not stand in the way of this.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that schools must reopen in-person for fall instruction, citing unproven statistics about rates of children contracting and spreading COVID-19.
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Biden released his Build Back Better plan for educators and Roadmap to Reopening Schools Safely
Joe Biden listened to parents and educators to lay out his roadmap that is grounded in science and puts the wellbeing of students and educators first. Unlike Trump, Biden sees that educators have been underpaid and undervalued for far too long, planning to institute higher pay and stronger benefits. His plans for workers serving students pre-K through college would put millions of Americans back to work.
U.S. posts worst economic drop on record.
Trump’s failure to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic continues as the economy plunges into its first recession in 11 years.
Biden announces school reopening plan.
Both Joe and Jill Biden hosted listening sessions with students, parents, educators, and health experts to discuss the challenges of reopening schools, what Joe Biden called a “national emergency.” Biden built on his roadmap to reopening schools by releasing a fact sheet with data and suggestions to support schools from the federal, state, and local levels so they can reopen safely and effectively.
Who Will Fight for Students?
See where Joe Biden and Donald Trump land on the issues that impact public schools.