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Minnesota Leaders Call Out Trump and DeVos's Chaotic Approach to School Reopening


September 8, 2020

ST. PAUL - Today, DFL Party leaders, educators, and Minnesota parents hosted a call speaking out against Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s chaotic approach to school reopening, and the major challenges it has created for Minnesota’s families. Featured on the call were DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (46A), State Senator Jason Isaacson (42), and Saint Louis Park resident Bethany Penna.

Excerpts from the call

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin: “Seven months into this crisis, Donald Trump still does not have a plan to address COVID-19, and he has no real plan to allow kids and teachers to return to school safely. As a parent of two teenagers in District 196, I’m concerned about the complete disregard the Trump administration has had on reopening schools safely. Trump's failure to lead is the very reason that many schools can't reopen safely. Trump continues to ignore and contradict medical experts, downplay the threat, and claim that COVID will miraculously disappear. Health experts, educators, and parents oppose Trump's demand to unsafely reopen schools and his threat to cut funding to those that don't reopen. Dr. Fauci has directly contradicted Trump saying that schools in coronavirus hotspots should not reopen in person, yet Donald Trump and his administration continue to ignore the advice of these experts. Trump continues to falsely claim that children are virtually immune and will not spread the virus even as students across America get sick and have to quarantine.”

Education Minnesota President Denise Specht: “This month schools all over Minnesota are trying to resume educating students during a global pandemic and a national reckoning on race. We are trying to do it safely for children for staff and with special consideration of our communities of color, which have been made especially vulnerable by years of racist policies in housing, health care, criminal justice, and other areas. Reopening school buildings is the most difficult thing any of us in education have ever done. The hard truth is that this could have been so much easier if the president and education secretary were working with us, instead of against us. Most of us in Minnesota, whatever our race, gender or zip code, believe that our families and neighborhoods are stronger, safer, and healthier when we come together to overcome shared challenges and develop solutions together. During this pandemic, Minnesota's public schools have helped keep our communities connected by serving as sites to distribute supplies, provide meals, and keep families informed even as our schools help slow the spread of the virus by educating students at home. But today, President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and their rich and powerful friends are fueling divisions among us by race and place.”

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (46A): “As a father of three sons in elementary school, junior high, and high school, and as a state legislator, Donald Trump has left me and many people like me holding the bag in this pandemic. The President has consistently downplayed the threat. He has not had a national strategy to address testing, or many of the other responses essential to get a handle on COVID. He has downplayed the basic social distancing and mask wearing steps that have saved thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives and have helped us get a grip on this pandemic. It's not enough that he has been absent and abandoned ship in a time of crisis. He is actively working against us. He is encouraging lunatic fringe ideas about how to address the disease. He is encouraging bizarre conspiracy theories and fanning the flames of resentment against any basic concepts of public health at a time when people actually need people who know what they're doing to have a plan and implement it. At the very basic level, a president should be able to rally the nation and build a response that brings everybody together and brings out the best in all of us.”

State Senator Jason Isaacson (42): “The reality is, the lack of plan and the disruptive nature of [Trump’s] tweets and his approach to almost everything he does has really put us in a position where we're still falling behind instead of getting ahead in America. Our leaders in a time of crisis, regardless of party historically, have worked hard to be selfless and not selfish. That's not what we're seeing in this current president and the policies put forth by him and DeVos have been absolutely critical in setting us in the wrong direction for our country. The lack of a plan, the lack of even just some basic maturity and standards of humility that would show some empathy for your common person is just stunning…We need to have an adult, we need to have an adult at the head of the table, who is actually setting forth a vision and a plan for our country, like what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will do. Someone who has an idea of how we can push forward and make sure that we are making people feel comfortable to know that we're working towards a common solution.”

Saint Louis Park resident Bethany Penna: “The irresponsible and politically motivated push for underprepared schools and teachers to open with next to no concrete guidance on safety measures is terrifying. It scares me as a mom. It scares me as a community member. And it terrifies me as a nurse. There are countless things that President Trump could have done leading up to the start of this school year that would have decreased the risk to our teachers and our students and to our families. That would have enabled things like our children to be able to still see their grandparents once school starts as opposed to having the lockdown and not be in touch with my 71-year-old and 76-year-old parents who are at high risk for this disease… There were ways that we could have made this a comprehensive, workable distance-based learning plan for everyone. But instead, President Trump chose to spread conspiracy theories, ignore science, and bully schools into reopening. Frankly, he's exhibited behavior I would never allow in my own children.”


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