The largest education union in the United States on Monday dismissed a one-page guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on school reopenings as nothing but a "watered down" and "flimsy flowchart" that proves once again the Trump administration is more interested in public relations and political victories than the health and safety of the nation's students and teaching professionals.
The creation and release of the document (pdf) by the CDC, charged the National Education Association (NEA)—which represents over 3 million educators working in the nation's schools, colleges, and universities—was done without relevant input and represents a woefully inadequate response to the current crisis presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
NEA president Lily Eskelsen García said that while her union is listening intently to the medical and public health experts for information on when and how it will be safe to let faculty, staff, and students go back into classrooms for in-person learning, the paltriness of the CDC's plan only shows "Trump's continued disregard for the safety and well-being of students and educators," who will be most at risk if reopenings happen prematurely and without the proper safeguards.
"The news out of France and other countries shows we need to be cautious and focused on safety in reopening planning, and prepared to act swiftly based on data," said García in a statement. "The reality of reopening school buildings and college campuses is that any missteps could cost lives, particularly among our most vulnerable students and in black, brown, and poor communities. Once again, this administration has politics trumping science."
The CDC flowchart:
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Last week Trump said, "I don't consider our country coming back if the schools are closed"—and the president has pinned his reelection campaign on making sure the economy is back up and running while repeatedly downplaying the public health dangers that could result from lifting social distancing requirements and lockdown orders.
García said teachers and other education personnel nationwide "want nothing more than to be back with our students in school buildings," but said being able to safely do that will require better leadership from the White House and serious funding authorized by Congress.
As Education Week reported, the HEROES Act relief bill passed last week by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives "would create a $90 billion 'state fiscal stabilization fund' for the U.S. Department of Education to support K-12 and higher education. About 65 percent of that fund—or roughly $58 billion—would go through states to local school districts."
The NEA and other education advocates are now calling the Senate to pick up that bill and pass it without delay.
"The American economy cannot recover if schools can't reopen," said García, "and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don't have what they need to be safe, learn, and succeed."