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Press Release

Trump’s call to reopen school buildings is dangerous for students, staff

Although 43 states and the District of Columbia disagree, Donald Trump urges all states to reopen schools before the close of the 2020 academic year. NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia reacts, citing that the health experts and educators should lead the way, not the president, whose best interests are clearly not with our nation’s students, educators, and staff.
Published: April 28, 2020

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Monday urged the nation’s governors to “seriously consider” reopening schools as part of his push to restart the economy, though at least 43 states and the District of Columbia already have recommended against returning to school buildings during the 2019-20 academic year, and medical experts say it is far too early to return to in-person classes.

The National Education Association — which represents more than 3 million teachers, school employees and other staff who work in U.S. public schools, colleges and universities — called on all school buildings to close and transition to distance learning in March before the pandemic gripped communities. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“The health and safety of our students, families, and educators must be the primary driver of when it is safe to re-open school buildings in each community. We’re listening to the health experts and educators on how and when to reopen schools — not the whims of Donald Trump who boasts about trusting his gut to guide him during this unprecedented global health crisis. There is not a single educator on the White House task force focused on reopening the American economy. This means that 51 million public school students do not have an advocate in the White House for what they need to be safe as school buildings reopen. Bringing thousands of children together in school buildings without proper testing, tracing, and social isolation is dangerous and could cost lives.

“Although school buildings have been closed, teachers and education support professionals have been working harder than ever to keep learning opportunities accessible for students. When the buildings re-open, we must prioritize the well-being of every person in the school. We will all need the time and space to re-connect, to grieve, to heal, and to re-focus. Students will need specialized staff like school nurses, school social workers, and school psychologists who will have a crucial role to play, addressing mental and behavioral health issues as well as broader issues of ensuring that reopened schools remain safe and healthy.

“Federal help is paramount to end the stay-at-home orders to assure students, parents and educators have the resources and supports necessary to succeed. Testing continues to be woefully unavailable. Schools lack personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep educators and students safe. And as local and state revenues dry up, public schools are facing mounting challenges. Educator jobs are being threatened due to lack of funding at a time when students need more support not less. Class sizes are likely to balloon, making social distancing even more difficult, if not impossible. These are the reasons why the National Education Association has advocated Congress dedicate, among other things, $175 billion in the next economic recovery stimulus bill to an education stabilization fund so that the needs of students at all levels can be supported during this critical time of uncertainty.

“We also can’t assume all our problems will disappear upon returning in the fall. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities facing our most vulnerable students, and they will still be there when school buildings re-open unless we address them now. We must share in finding solutions that finally work for students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, undocumented families, homeless families, rural schools, and under-resourced schools.”

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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.