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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos responds to criticism from teachers’ union

Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro speaks with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the president of the American Federation of Teachers
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The debate over sending kids back to school is getting more heated every day.

“They didn’t contain the virus,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers’ union. “They haven’t given us resources, and they’ve been completely inconsistent in a message about safety for children.”

Weingarten is speaking out against the Trump administration. And, she thinks some schools opened too soon.

“Florida, Arizona and Texas should not be opening their school buildings right now,” she said.

Weingarten cited the case in Georgia where several people tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to the classroom.

She’s calling for testing, personal protective equipment, and proper classroom ventilation.

“All of this has a price tag,” Weingarten said.

She said schools need $400 billion.

Gray Television Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro brought Weingarten’s ask to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“How much money do you think schools need?” Policastro asked.

“The president has called for $105 billion for education,” DeVos said.

“There’s a $300 billion gap between the numbers you are putting out and what the teachers’ union wants,” Policastro followed up.

“I encourage those who are critical of what’s happened thus far to actually utilize the money that’s there and stop talking about not having anything,” DeVos said. “Start having solutions, and start getting kids back in the classroom.”

Policastro also asked DeVos if some schools reopened too soon.

“It certainly is dependent on their circumstance and their community,” DeVos said. “But no, we know that kids have got to get back to school.”

DeVos responded to teachers’ concerns about returning to in-person learning.

“Teachers are meant to be with their students. That’s what they entered the profession for,” DeVos said. “So I am confident that when education leaders put their heads together with the families they serve, they can come up with the right answer for the students they are serving.”

Congress already approved $13 billion for schools in the CARES Act that President Trump signed into law in March.

Negotiations to provide more funding to schools during the pandemic are currently stalled in Congress.

DeVos is facing criticism for working from home while pushing students and teachers back into the classroom. When asked about it, she said:

“I have been carrying on meetings with governors across the country. I have traveled to 6 states in the last couple of months. I have had dozens and dozens of conference calls and virtual meetings and sessions.”

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