Schools, the pandemic and Biden-Harris’ vision for the future

9/10/2020, 6 p.m.
As a teacher in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore, my colleagues and I would normally be spending this time ...

As a teacher in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore, my colleagues and I would normally be spending this time greeting new classes of students at the door and helping each make the adjustment to new routines and a brand new chance to advance academically and socially.

But nothing is routine about school right now, as students, educators, families and community members in Virginia and across the nation try to cope with a global pandemic that has been tragically mishandled by the Trump administration.

Across the country, we’ve seen states and families grapple with the decision to resume in-person learning or stick with remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic still rages. Schools have experienced localized COVID-19 outbreaks in places where children have participated in in-person classes, then returned home to grandparents and vulnerable siblings.

In Virginia, as the new school year gets underway, we’re trying to avoid the same here. Deaths in the Commonwealth from COVID-19 are disproportionately high in communities of color, and our children are more likely to live in multigenerational households with family members who are essential workers or have pre-existing conditions.

Our communities face inequality in access to health care, housing, transportation, employment and more. If we get this wrong, it will be communities of color that will be hit hardest yet again.

President Trump is putting our students’ and educators’ lives at risk by forcing schools across the country to open in-person in the middle of a pandemic he failed to contain. He defied his own government’s top public health experts and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for how schools can reopen safely. It is outrageous that the president and his administration would threaten to cut funding for schools during a time when they need it the most.

This is a complex issue with life-threatening effects. And while I know it is not the president’s style to think through difficult situations and take the proper precautions, the lives of our students and teachers are on the line.

When President Trump says the CDC guidelines are asking schools “to do very impractical things” to reopen, he is putting America’s future on the line to benefit himself politically. Our students and teachers cannot survive another four years of Donald Trump.

There is never a time for a president’s dangerously selfish agenda to supersede the lives of Americans. That’s why I am proud to be supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They intend to make the safe reopening of schools in America a top national priority. This means listening to public health experts, following the science and containing the virus. It means providing basic resources to keep students, educators and communities safe.

In fact, Mr. Biden and Sen. Harris have a five-step roadmap to reopening schools safely. They believe that we must get the virus under control, set national safety guidelines and empower local decision-making, provide emergency funding for public schools and child care providers, ensure high-quality learning and close the educational equality gap that has worsened severely during this pandemic.

It is past time that we address the systemic disparities in education for students of color. Mr. Biden’s plan will do just that. He’ll create White House-led initiatives to identify these disparities and work to address mental health and socioeconomic injustice and encourage teacher diversity. No more ignoring the science and doling out active threats of education funding cuts.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will work to eliminate COVID-19 and even the playing field at the same time. It is imperative we elect them in November. Our future is on the line.


Accomack County

The writer is a vocal music teacher on leave from the Accomack County Public Schools as he serves as president of the 40,000- member Virginia Education Association.