The president of the nation’s largest education union challenged President Donald Trump to sit in a classroom and “breathe that air” as she slammed his ongoing push to reopen schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s no one that wants our kids back more than teachers,” Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Wednesday. “But we want to open it safely.”
Trump on Tuesday claimed some schools were remaining closed during the public health crisis solely for political reasons. He promised to pressure governors to make them reopen in the fall. On Wednesday, he threatened via Twitter to stop federal funding for districts ignoring his demand.
García noted how the premature reopening of bars, without the implementation of effective safety measures aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19, had likely contributed to the recent surge in new confirmed infections nationwide.
The virus has now killed more than 130,000 people in the U.S.
“This isn’t a bar. We’re talking about second graders,” García said. “I had 39 sixth graders one year in my class. I double-dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breathe that air without any preparation for how we’re going to bring our kids back safely.”
Camerota suggested the Trump administration is effectively “outsourcing” safety measures to governors, districts and school staff.
García’s union, meanwhile, has insisted on increasing the availability of personal protective equipment, more deep-cleaning procedures, the installation of sanitizing stations and the alteration of classrooms so students can be at least 6 feet apart.
Camerota asked García how the raft of measures would be funded.
“One of the things that we know is that when Shake Shack needed some money, the Congress joined hands, sang Kumbayah and threw money at businesses so they wouldn’t have to lay people off,” García replied. “There is a bill sitting on (GOP Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell’s desk right now called the HEROES Act, passed by the (Democratic-controlled) House which has billions of dollars dedicated to schools so we could do this right.”
Trump, however, has dismissed the bill as “dead on arrival,” García said.
Check out the interview here:
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