August 5, 2020Christina Brey

WEAC President: Biden is right — schools need a clear, science-based strategy

WEAC President: Biden is right — schools need a clear, science-based strategy Featured Image
WEAC President Ron Martin

By Ron Martin
WEAC President

Wisconsin parents and teachers are consumed with how to keep students safe and learning as a new school year approaches. In fact, it seems the only person not talking about reopening schools is U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.


DeVos is tone-deaf to what’s on the minds of parents and teachers, and wholly unqualified to lead America’s schools.


DeVos has popped up again in our state this time to champion the Trump administration’s reckless attacks on Title IX, designed to make it nearly impossible for victims of sexual assault on campus to get justice. In June, she was in Wisconsin to push more federal funding for unaccountable private voucher schools. In July, she threatened to withhold funding for school districts that didn’t open fully in-person, no matter the increase in positive tests in a community.


Instead of campaigning for Trump’s pet projects, the U.S. Education Secretary should be talking to Wisconsin about federal support for schools and students in this time of crisis. Nearly 55,000 of positive cases have been reported in our state and only two counties are deemed as low threat levels for spread.


The health and safety of our students and educators should be top-of-mind for the nation’s leaders, and all decisions should be guided by science. We need solutions so all students can access technology for distance learning. We need nurses in our schools. We need strategies that promote educational equity. We must have the time and resources to reopen safely.


I can’t say I’m surprised at the void in the DeVos/Trump response to the pandemic. They pursued a federal budget that tried to slash over $8 billion in funding for public education, including a proposed elimination of funding for the Special Olympics, assuming nobody would notice. DeVos callously ignored expert guidance on school shootings and supported arming teachers instead of addressing the source of school violence.


What Wisconsin needs now is serious consideration about how our students and educators can safely learn and teach during a pandemic. Instead, we get a TV campaign telling school districts they are on their own, mirroring Trump’s position that states are on our own. Students, teachers and families deserve better.


Educators want nothing more than to be in school with students, but it’s irresponsible for DeVos to ignore facts. We agree with teacher Jill Biden and her husband Joe that schools need a clear, science-based strategy, not mixed messages and ultimatums.


Ron Martin is an eighth grade teacher and the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.


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