By Amanda Menas
Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump took the stage Thursday for the final debate of the election season. They sparred on such topics such as the coronavirus pandemic and healthcare, foreign policy, immigration, and climate change. Throughout the evening, Biden grounded his responses by addressing the needs of educators, students, and the middle class.
“I think healthcare is not a privilege, it’s a right,” said Biden, speaking directly to the American public. Millions of workers have lost jobs due to the pandemic, including 283,000 educators, Biden spoke about his plan to build on the Affordable Care Act to give families and school communities more options to stay healthy and safe.
Due to the lack of leadership from President Trump, 16,000 Americans have died since the last debate, and 400,000 are currently hospitalized. However, he continues to insist that the only way forward is to risk the health and safety of our communities and reopen.
“We have to reopen our schools,” Trump declared at one point. As students and educators begin the 2020-21 school year, Trump has not pushed to fund PPE and ensure other safety protocols are in place to keep our communities safe. His secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly said that it is not the duty of the Department of Education to track coronavirus spread in public schools or schools’ reopening plans.
Trump also claimed that the rate of transmission from students to their teachers and other school staff is “very small,” which has not been confirmed by the experts. But data has shown that young people can die from COVID-19 and that they contribute to spreading it throughout the community.
Biden released a plan for schools to reopen safely months ago, while the country continued to lack leadership from Trump. During the debate Biden said, “When you do open, give the people the capacity to be able to open and give the people the capacity to do it safely. For example schools, they need a lot of money to be able to reopen. They need money to deal with ventilation systems, they need to deal with smaller classes, more teachers, more pods, and he’s refused to support that money,” said Biden.
Throughout the debate, Trump continued to speak in racist dog whistles and xenophobic language and would not denounce white supremacy. His refusal speaks volumes to families that are forced to have “the talk” about surviving systemic racism with their Black, Brown, and Native American children. At a time when communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Americans deserve a president who will face and help dismantle institutional racism.
For educators and families, the choice in this election is clear. Four more years of Trump means a failed economy, an unqualified secretary of education, and continued chaos. A Biden administration has a strong plan to help America “build back better,” and ensure opportunity through public education for all of our students.