More than seven months after Donald Trump promised that the COVID-19 pandemic was “totally under control,” we’re still seeing about 1,000 new cases every day in the Buckeye State, Ohioans are still losing their lives, and working families are still struggling to survive the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
From the first days of the outbreak, Trump ignored his own advisors, downplayed the virus, and failed to take action, allowing the United States to lead the world with more than 6 million cases. Now as a new school year begins, we’re seeing a worrying increase in coronavirus infections among children and teenagers, schools are facing skyrocketing expenses, and educators and families across the state are bracing for a potential disaster.
After a lifetime of teaching, I can tell you there’s nowhere Ohio’s educators would rather be than the classroom. This is our profession and our passion — there’s nothing more rewarding than watching our students learn and grow. Teachers want to spend their days doing what they do best, but they won’t put the health and the safety of their students and communities at risk in order to do it.
But instead of delivering the resources educators need to do their jobs and the safe environments students need to learn, Trump has prioritized his own political interests over the urgent needs of Ohio communities.
Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has even described the pandemic as an “opportunity” to advance an anti-education agenda and undermine our schools. After Congress passed emergency school relief earlier this year, DeVos funnelled millions away from public classrooms and handed it to private companies.
When pushed on students’ need for high-speed internet access to facilitate long-distance learning, she insisted that kids can learn “in the woods behind your house.”
Trump is continuing to make things even worse. Shrugging off the CDC’s guidelines, he demanded that schools rush to reopen fully in person. He provided no guidance to superintendents, he hasn’t delivered sufficient resources to school districts, and he offered no assurance that educators, students, and families would be kept safe. He even threatened to slash critical funding for schools that refused to follow through with his demands.
When asked if she could guarantee that school reopenings wouldn’t lead to new infections, DeVos simply refused to answer. She knows the truth, and so does Trump.
Trump’s own advisors have warned that, in the midst of an already-devastating pandemic, recklessly reopening schools is the single biggest risk to public health. Trump knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s fully prepared to put Ohioans’ lives on the line.
Schools aren’t laboratories, and teachers aren’t test subjects. To knowingly and callously send students and educators into harm’s way is more than a betrayal. It’s not just another broken promise. Trump has walked away from the most basic and sacred responsibility of his job: to keep the American people safe.
Trump can’t spin that reality with empty rhetoric and photo ops. Ohioans deserve better than his incompetence. In fact, we need better — our health, lives, and livelihoods depend on it. We can’t afford another day of this chaos, let alone another four years.
Patricia Frost-Brooks is a retired educator and the former president of the Ohio Education Association. She resides in Cleveland Heights.