In The Battlegrounds: While Devos Hid Behind Closed Doors, Educators Slammed Trump’s Failed Coronavirus Response

While Betsy DeVos followed her disastrous Sunday show interviews with a week of closed-door Federalist Society events, Democrats and educators across the battlegrounds called out the Trump administration’s failure to put students, teachers, and families’ safety first and slammed their attempts to force unsafe school reopenings by threatening federal education funding. Read more below:

In Arizona:

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman on KSAZ: “Trump’s push to reopen schools is completely out of touch with reality here on the ground in Arizona.”

KAWC: “Arizona education leaders say the Trump administration and federal education leaders are wrong to call on schools to reopen as soon as possible during a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases […] ‘I can tell you that after the abrupt goodbyes in the spring that our teachers in Arizona want to re-enter their classrooms and they want to be with their students as soon as it is safely possible,’ Hoffman said. ‘However, it’s clear that right now it is not safe to do so and a reckless attempt to reopen without grounding those decisions in data will put the lives of our educators and our students at risk.’”

Cronkite News: “Hoffman’s comments came during a call in which state Democrats pushed back against the White House, which is leading the charge in favor of reopening schools. They said that push comes with little guidance and ‘lacks empathy for our educators’ at a time of spiraling COVID-19 cases.”

Cronkite News: “2019 Arizona Teacher of the Year Kareem Neal, who was on the call Wednesday, said DeVos’ visit with a group of lawyers instead of parents or school workers is ‘a slap in the face.’ ‘It’s a scary thought to know you never have a seat at the table with this administration,’ said Neal, who teaches in a special education classroom in Maryvale. He and others on the call said DeVos’ department and the White House have yet to give guidelines for reopening schools but continues to push the need for kids to be back in school, a rush to reopen they called ‘reckless’ and ‘completely out-of-touch with reality.’”

KJZZ: “Arizona Democrats held a press conference today with education leaders ahead of a Thursday virtual event between the U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a Phoenix conservative group. Kareem Neal is a Phoenix special ed teacher and Arizona’s 2019 Teacher of the Year […] He says he’s disappointed that DeVos hasn’t expressed interest in meeting with educators and hearing their concerns.”

KSAZ: “Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman participated in a conference call with Democrats denouncing the president’s calls to reopen schools or face funding cuts.”

KPNX: “During a press call with reporters, Arizona’s top educator expressed concern with the COVID-19 outbreak and the impact on teachers and students […] The main point of the press call was to push back against the President’s call to have students back in the classrooms. ‘Trump’s push to reopen schools is completely out of touch with reality here on the ground in Arizona,’ Hoffman said. ‘And a reckless attempt to reopen without grounding those decisions in data will put the lives of our educators  and students at risk.’”

Blog for Arizona: With Betsy DeVos Coming to Arizona, Education and Political Leaders Discuss the Challenges of Reopening Schools for In Person Instruction. “Ms. DeVos, the Secretary of Education, will be in Arizona tomorrow to attend a closed-door virtual meeting of the Federalist Society […] Superintendent Hoffman commented that Mr. Trump’s rush to reopen schools: ‘Lacked empathy for our educators and lacked understanding of public health with Arizona reporting our highest numbers yet.’ […] Mr. Neal, who works in an area (Maryvale) with the second highest rates of COVID-19 infections, commented ‘It would be nice if Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos ever had our backs.’”

Fronteras: Arizona Education Leaders Blast Trump Administration Ahead Of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Event. “Kareem Neal, a Phoenix special education teacher, said he didn’t personally know Kimberly Chavez Lopez Byrd, the eastern Arizona teacher who died of COVID-19 in late June, but he felt like she was part of his community. So he was disappointed to hear U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in an interview brush off the teacher’s death and stick to the Trump administration’s school reopening talking points. ‘I felt like our leadership at the top was willing to sacrifice us (teachers) for whatever their agenda is,’ the 2019 Arizona Teacher of the Year said at a Wednesday press conference by Arizona Democrats.”

In Florida:

FL Dems: “‘Trump’s push to reopen schools with a one size fits all approach is proof that he has a complete lack of understanding of the dire situation here in Florida, and a lack of empathy for the teachers and families who will bear the brunt of his reckless decisions,’ said Florida Democratic Party Spokesperson Frances Swanson. ‘Floridians deserve a president who will put public health and safety over politics. Floridians deserve Joe Biden.’”

In Michigan: 

WLNS: State Democrats to slam school re-opening plan by Betsy Devos. “The Michigan Democratic Party is holding a virtual press conference today to discuss how to safely re-open schools in Michigan and their total disagreement with the plan set forth by the Education Secretary, Betsy Devos. State representatives Sheryl Kennedy and Matt Koleszar along with Congressman Andy Levin will be hosting the conference and plan to highlight what the state of Michigan is doing now to keep their kids safe for a future return to school.

In Ohio:

The Columbus Dispatch: “Callous and clueless” – Ohio teachers unions slam Trump’s call to fully reopen schools. “Democrats and Ohio’s teacher unions blasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as ‘callous and clueless’ for her call to fully reopen schools this fall amid a surge in coronavirus infections. ‘Two words come to mind: callous and clueless,’ said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. ‘Secretary DeVos’ comments about just utterly disregarding the health and safety threat (of) reopening schools without clear public health guidance imposes was actually pretty shocking.’”

WSYX: Ohio educators push back on ‘threats’ from White House to reopen schools this fall. “‘It is disturbing to get a phone call from a teacher whose husband has lung disease and diabetes and who is fearful that if she goes back to work, she’ll be putting her husband’s life in jeopardy,’ said Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.”

WSYX: DeVos Threatens District Money. “Ohio educators are calling the head of the U.S. Department of Education reckless as she pushes for all schools to open within these next few weeks. […] ‘I find it shameful that Betsy DeVos is going to be doing a virtual event in Ohio tomorrow, talking to the Federalist [Society], but she’s not reaching out to any educators.”

WCMH: “Today, the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers participated in a roundtable, both groups expressing concerns on these comments. […] ‘I am deeply concerned that, to be blunt, teachers, students, and their families may die from exposure in  schools. Now, all of us want to reopen schools, but we do not want to take unnecessary risks.’”

WDTN: “At the same time, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made it clear over the weekend the only plan she wants is one where all students head back to school, even threatening districts with cutting federal funding if they don’t. […]  The Ohio Federation of Teachers says that there is nothing educators want more than to be back in school, but they differ from DeVos in one big way: ‘We also prioritize health and safety. It’s very clear that Betsy DeVos is just following in the footsteps of Donald Trump.’”

In Wisconsin: 

Wisconsin Teacher On WFRV: “They don’t care that children, parents, and teachers will inevitably get sick, may carry lifelong ailments from exposure to the illness, and that some will most certainly die.”