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Press Release

Trump administration designates teachers as ‘essential workers’ to force educators into unsafe schools

President Donald Trump designates teachers as "essential workers." NEA President Lily Eskelsen García decries move as a shallow sentiment that exposes students, educators and their families to a deadly virus.
Published: 08/21/2020

WASHINGTON - August 21, 2020 - The Trump administration declared teachers as “essential workers” in its latest effort to pressure school districts into bringing back students this fall, despite its failure to provide the tools and resources that are required to reopen schools safe and equitably.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Educators have always gone above and beyond to engage their students and serve their communities, and this has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are prepping for student learning in the fall, even if the building is closed. And they will always put the health and well-being of their students first.

“The Trump administration’s threats to designate teachers as ‘essential workers’ has no legal merit and is more of a rhetorical gambit to give President Trump and those governors who are disregarding the advice and guidance from public health experts an excuse to force educators into unsafe schools. Parents, teachers and school staff need a real plan to reopen school buildings safely; they don’t need a shallow heartwarming sentiment that exposes students, educators and their families to a deadly virus.

“If the Trump administration truly valued educators, it would have listened to their concerns months ago about safety and it wouldn’t be blocking another desperately-needed coronavirus relief package that could provide schools with what they need to safely and equitably continue educating students during this pandemic. Instead, this administration is trying to extort educators into recklessly reopening that risks lives.

“School districts across the country are now faced with developing protocols in case a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. For schools to be open, and remain open, student safety must come first. Schools need to implement clear policies on how to handle suspected cases of COVID-19 to maintain the safety of our students and educators. Schools must consider how to conduct ongoing disease prevention and mitigation, including testing, tracing and isolating new cases. Students and staff that have been in contact with the infected person need to quarantine. It is also important that schools create contingency plans to continue educating those students who are quarantining. They may no longer be in the school building, but they should continue learning.”

More resources are available at www.nea.org/COVIDaction

Follow on twitter at @NEAmedia and @Lily_NEA

Keep up with the conversation on social media at #TogetherWeRise

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.