Real Teacher, Real President Have Real Plan For Getting Kids Back To School Safely

Education

The Trump administration is pushing forward with its brilliant plan to reopen schools this fall without any actual plan. Plans are for “schemers." Trump is an “agent of chaos." Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is supportive of a plan as long as someone else comes up with it and all kids are back in school, probably sucking up COVID-19.

It's times like these we wish we had a president. Fortunately, Joe Biden provided a sneak peek at a better reality when he released a five-point “road map" Friday for reopening schools during the coronavirus crisis. The New York Times said Biden's plan draws a “clear contrast with Trump's," but the president just wants to pretend it's fall of 2019 and there is no coronavirus. An ostrich impersonation is not a plan.

The first part of Biden's plan involves not letting COVID-19 kick us in the ass like we owe the virus money. Americans need to “get the virus under control" -- wear your damn mask! -- and expand contact tracing. Trump's Springtime for Hitler administration is trying to block increased congressional funding for testing and tracing. Biden would also ensure school employees have access to the personal protective equipment necessary to keep them alive. Trump can only offer them an assortment of Goya beans.


Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden Deliver Remarks on Schools Reopening www.youtube.com

BIDEN: Forcing educators and students back into a classroom in areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous.

This is where Trump would wander off into a diatribe about dishwashers, but Biden remained on message. It helped that he actually has four other points. Biden would provide schools with “clear, effective national guidelines, not mixed messages and ultimatums." He'd empower local decision-making and wouldn't pressure districts to ignore national guidelines for political gain. The former vice president stands with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and American Association of School Administrators (AASA), AKA the School Superintendents Association, who all agree that "schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts."

Schools desperately need emergency financial support, but Trump has only threatened to break funding kneecaps like a common gangster if schools don't embrace his total denial “plan." Although Trump was probably a gross bully whenever he bothered to attend school, that personal experience isn't useful here. Schools were already facing a tough year due to COVID-19-related cutbacks. Now they're expected to roll out new infrastructure for distance learning, which is safe, and also how to make on-site education work during a pandemic.

Biden thinks Trump and Senate Republicans should get off their asses and pass the HEROES Act, which the House passed months ago. The bill includes roughly $58 billion for local school districts. This is yet another reason to flip the Senate to Democratic control. Oh, and drag Trump kicking and screaming out of the White House.

Biden also proposes more emergency funding to help schools adapt to COVID-19. Just consider the scope of changes necessary to reopen safely: Increased custodial and health services; alterations to building ventilation systems; and major changes to class sizes and student transportation. The price tag is estimated at $30 billion. This would also include funding for childcare providers. Biden suggests an additional $4 billion to upgrade technology and broadband.

Finally, Biden wants to deliver "high-quality remote and hybrid learning with a special emphasis on students with disabilities, English-language learners, and students who do not have access to specific technology, such as broadband and devices." Biden would focus on closing the "COVID-19 educational equity gap," where minority and low-income students of all backgrounds are falling behind compared to their white and higher-income peers.

Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, addressed this difficult topic together in an accompanying video. Republicans like to “joke" that Biden is “hiding in his basement," which is an annoying criticism because it's a very nice basement. You wish your basement looked this good. There's plenty of headroom and everything.

The video was simultaneously reassuring and terrifying. Dr. Biden is an actual real-live educator, which is what we need right now during this crisis. Instead we're stuck with a billionaire moron whose entire tenure as Education secretary has been like a malicious deer caught in a parking lot full of headlights. It's obvious Dr. Biden and Uncle Joe care about students and teachers and have put more thought into what happens to them this fall than Trump puts into his Big Mac-fueled bowel movements.

It's reassuring to see actual thoughtful leadership, but it's terrifying to know we're stuck in a desert with vultures circling overhead and the nearest oasis isn't until January 2021.

[New York Times / NPR / Joe Biden]

Stephen Robinson on Twitter.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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