You can’t turn on the news these days or look at social media without hearing people screaming about WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN WITH SCHOOL?!?! Teachers are scared. Parents are stressed. And everyone has an opinion. But sadly – though not surprisingly – the President has offered no comfort or any sort of plan for making it through this nightmare.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “[t]he science should not stand in the way” of schools reopening. Experts have recommended caution, and the CDC has said that full reopening of schools presents “highest risk.” But like a petulant child, the President has put his fingers in his ears and says “la-la-la, I can’t hear you” and ordered that schools reopen… or else.
He has offered zero reassurance that in-person schooling will be safe. He has shown zero leadership or responsibility. And he has continually denied or downplayed the severity of the situation, saying “I’ll eventually be right… It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right.”
Newsflash: it won’t just disappear and Trump hasn’t been right about anything.
As bad as the pandemic is, even worse is the realization that it didn’t have to be this way. America could have mirrored the recoveries of Germany, Italy and the rest of the European Union. Kids could be going back to school safely. The economy could be rebounding, and Americans could be safely resuming near-normal lives in the midst of a pandemic.
But alas, due to the complete lack of leadership by an administration led by a sociopathic narcissist, this dreadful nightmare continues. Cases of COVID-19 are rising nearly everywhere. Hospitals are at max capacity in Florida, Texas and other parts of the South. And parents, kids, and teachers are stuck between a rock and a hard place with no decent options.
“The challenge facing our schools is unprecedented. President Trump has made it much worse. We had a window to get this right. And, Trump blew it,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.
Damn right he blew it.
“Over a month ago, Biden identified key steps that Donald Trump needed to take to reopen our schools safely,” the Biden campaign continued. “Trump has taken none of them. In fact, he’s done the opposite. He has threatened to force schools to reopen for in-person instruction without the basic resources they need to keep students, educators, and communities safe.”
Fortunately, there are some leaders out there ready to guide us through this mess. Some state governors. School board superintendents. Teachers. And Presidential candidate Joe Biden.
On July 17, Biden released a video explaining what needs to be done in order to get our kids safely back in school – which is something we all want. His plan, as laid out in the video, has five key steps:
Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe and how to make it stick. Forcing educators and students back into classrooms in areas where infection rates are going up or remaining too high is just plain dangerous. pic.twitter.com/8OeTj2eWdt
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 17, 2020
1. Get the virus under control.
A-freaking-men. It is impossible to resume anything even closely resembling normalcy with coronavirus running rampant. And no, herd immunity is not a viable option. Unless, of course, you want to see hundreds of thousands of Americans die. Instead of going that grim route, Biden calls for expanding contact tracing, bolstering the country’s supply of personal protective equipment, and improving our coronavirus testing capabilities.
2. Establish “national safety guidelines, [and] empower local decision-making.”
With Trump in denial about the severity of the pandemic and completely checked out on a recovery process, states and localities have had to take matters into their own hands. What has resulted is a piecemeal approach, with some states opening slowly and methodically and others literally throwing the doors open to not-socially-distanced large gatherings. We need a unified, national framework of basic guidelines, such as a national face mask mandate, while also giving states some amount of flexibility in the specifics of complying with those guidelines depending on how under control the virus is in their area.
3. Provide emergency funds for public schools and child care providers, including a $30 billion congressional education package and an additional $4 billion to upgrade technology and broadband.
Hallelujah. Under Cruella DeVos — err, Betsy DeVos – public education has been decimated. Without emergency funds, some kids will suffer while others will not, and the disparities in education with continue to expand.
4. Ensure quality learning during the pandemic.
Let’s be honest, school is still “open” even if the brick and mortar buildings is not. Unfortunately, the pandemic has shined a light on disparities in our education system, especially when it comes to racism and socioeconomic class. Biden understands this and will work to ensure that all kids have access to a quality education, including remote learning, not just those kids who have parents who can afford tutors and high-tech educational tools.
5. Close “the COVID-19 educational equity gap.”
Taking the previous goal a step further, Biden wants to close the educational equity gap so that some kids aren’t left farther behind then others when we emerge get back to a more typical school setting.
Biden’s plan was praised Friday by the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest labor union. “The safety of our students and educators shouldn’t be political, but sadly once again we see Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are playing politics with the lives of our students and educators by threatening to withhold funding from school that don’t give in to their bullying,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García wrote.
How refreshing is it to have a leader suggest concrete and viable steps in managing this once-in-a-century crisis? How amazing would it be to have a capable leader at the helm, who listens to experts and cares about the country instead of just boosting his own ego?
After the past several months (and really, three and a half years), it almost seems too good to be true. But it isn’t. This is what leadership looks like. This is the kind of leader we need. I don’t care if Biden wasn’t your first choice (or even your second or third choice); get on board and get on board now. He wasn’t my first choice at the start of the primary season (Elizabeth Warren had my heart), but he sure as hell is my numero uno, first choice, one-and-only now.
Unfortunately, the pandemic won’t just disappear like Trump wishes; COVID-19 will be around for several months to come and the aftermath of the pandemic could take years to recover from. We need a leader who will guide us with wisdom and compassion, not someone who cares only about himself. Our kids’ lives are literally depending on it.