Press Release

AFT’s Weingarten Rejects Trump's Schools Reopening Guidelines as Too Little, Too Late

For Release: 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Contact:

Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603
acrook@aft.org

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after the White House convened a forum on reopening schools and published content-free “recommendations” to physically reopen school buildings in the middle of a pandemic:

“Everyone wants to return to some kind of normalcy, but the White House recommendations are too little, too late, and almost comical in their lack of detail and rigor. The administration has been missing in action for five months as the virus spiraled out of control in the South and Southwest, and now, with the school year already started for millions for children, it tosses around empty rhetoric while refusing to negotiate a funding bill that would deliver the relief we so desperately need.

“Unlike President Trump’s and Betsy DeVos’ pronouncements in July, when they just bullied and threatened, today they simply sketched out what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced months ago. Yet, their approach remains flawed: There’s no mention of the testing for kids and teachers, or the threshold of community spread for schools to open. They seem to finally understand the importance of ventilation and social distancing, but what are they doing to make it a reality? They offer mere words, not action.

"It’s too bad the administration didn't join teachers and their unions in fighting for the safety, health and well-being of children, teachers and communities from the get-go. Instead, they deceived, dithered and downplayed the pandemic, while trying to divert relief to private schools. DeVos might not have felt the urgency from her compound on the shores of Michigan’s Lake Macatawa, but for America’s families this is a matter of life and death.

“If people are looking for someone to blame for school buildings staying closed, they should look no further than DeVos, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House of Representatives did its job and passed a massive COVID-19 relief package that included the money schools would need to reopen safely. But the president and the Senate pressed the “pause button” and refused to negotiate a deal.

“The bottom line is that we still haven’t contained community spread. We don’t have the necessary safeguards. And we don’t have the resources to fix either. That’s why more and more schools are opening remotely. The administration has ignored American families and educators, and with this pathetic Hail Mary, its failure only deepens." ​

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.