Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sparred with CNN’s Dana Bash on the network’s “State of the Union” Sunday on getting kids back to school this fall.
Bash began the segment by highlighting the recent increase in positive coronavirus tests across the country and asked the secretary whether she could “assure students, teachers, parents, that they will not get coronavirus because they’re going back to school” as the Trump administration pushes for their return.
“The key is that kids have to get back to school,” DeVos said, going on to emphasize the need for a targeted approach to deal with inevitable hot spots while acting in the best interests of students’ health by returning them to academic institutions that many rely on for food, exercise, and skills fundamental to their development.
We know that there are going to be hot spots, and those need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But the rules should be that kids go back to school this fall. They’ve been missing months of learning. Many of them are going to be so far behind, it’s going to be difficult to catch up. And we know this is a matter of their health in a multitude of factors or multitude of dimensions. We know that their emotional well-being, their mental well-being, and particularly kids from low-income and vulnerable populations, this is devastating to be out of school and not learning for months on end.
Bash pushed back, re-asking whether the education secretary could guarantee that no one affiliated with the nation’s schools would contract the virus. DeVos explained that children “get the virus at a far lower rate than any other part of the population.” Centers for Disease Control data shows that those ages 0 to 18 are the lowest-risk group for the Wuhan virus.
“There is nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them,” DeVos said. “In fact, it’s more a matter of their health and well-being that they be back in school.”
DeVos said the United States ought to follow examples from Europe where schools have re-opened safely without a spike in new cases.
When Bash countered with two isolated incidents of children spreading the Chinese virus, DeVos cited data from YMCAs that illustrate the absence of “high incidents of infections.”
“There’s ample opportunity to have kids in school,” DeVos said. “There are many counties across the country that have virtually no cases, and so school leaders need to be looking at the granular data right on the ground where they are and looking at if there are problems, then how are you going to deal with them? But the goal needs to be that kids are learning full-time again this fall.”
DeVos reiterated her comments on “Fox News Sunday” that “there’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to everything.”
Despite Bash claiming in the interview that no one is advocating for children not to return to school, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged the Trump administration with “messing with the health of our children” by encouraging local control over how kids return to school.
“Going back to school presents the biggest risk for the spread of the coronavirus,” Pelosi later said on the program. “We all want our children to go back to school, parents do and children do. But they must go back safely… If there are CDC guidelines, they should be requirements.”