In an interview with CNN, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made it clear that the Trump administration has no plans to secure the safe return of students to school this fall.
She said school districts are basically on their own and that students must return to classes in person, irrespective of the ongoing coronavirus risks.
Rather than providing insights on how the administration is working on protecting the lives of people amid the ongoing pandemic that killed more than 137,000 so far, DeVos stuck to her statement that kids “need to be back in school” over and over again while replying to every question from CNN’s Dana Bash.
She even refused to say whether school districts should abide by the guidelines set out by the CDC to keep children safe, which Trump has described “as very tough and expensive.”
In the whole interview, DeVos did not offer any reassurance about how teachers would be protected.
She said, “Kids need to be back in school, and school leaders across the country need to be making plans to do just that,” swatting away concerns about the deadly virus as though it were just a common nuisance.
“There is going to be the exception to the rule but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” she added. “And where there are little flare-ups or hotspots, that can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis.”
DeVos, who is known for her support for school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools, had very little experience in public education; however, she was nominated for the post in 2016 by Trump after playing a key role in raising money for his campaign.
Trump called DeVos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” but she delivered a shaky performance in her confirmation hearing that underscored her lack of depth on education issues and funding.
She did not give a straight answer when Bash repeatedly asked her whether the administration would attempt to withhold funding from schools that do not try to open in the fall.
“There’s no desire to take money away. In fact, we want to see schools open and have been committed to ensuring the resources are there to do that,” DeVos said. “We are committed to ensuring students are in school and learning.”
She added, “They’ve been missing months of learning, many of them are going to be so far behind. It’s difficult to catch up.”
DeVos emphasized that children have contracted COVID-19 at lower rates than other age groups. However, some kids have become critically ill due to coronavirus complications.
She said, “There is nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them. In fact, it’s more a matter of their health and well-being that they be back in school.” According to the CDC, “If children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk. Children can pass this virus onto others who have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”