Education Sec. Miguel Cardona Admits There Will Be ‘Bumps in the Road’ When It Comes to Keeping Schools Open
Schools are closing once again due to COVID, rather than return from the winter break, despite how the Omicron variant, while more contagious, is more “mild,” and despite the countless negative long-term consequences for children. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona did share it is the administration’s “goal” and “expectation” to have in-person learning. They are doing “everything possible,” which he said means “getting access to those tests.” He didn’t offer much else, though.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Cardona admitted to host Trace Gallagher that there will be “bumps in the road,” which he blamed on “staffing issues.” They also discussed “bumpy roads” as it applies to concerns Randi Weingarten, the president of American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has.
Cardona mostly stuck to promoting what he considers successes of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was supposed to include testing options. The bill was signed into law in March, though, almost a year ago now, and what there has been no shortage of is problems.
Problems abound with testing, for instance. As Katie reported on December 25, back in October President Joe Biden was offered and rejected a plan for increasing the testing supply. Efforts to provide Americans with tests has already fallen apart, as Katie also highlighted, since the infrastructure is not in place. While the plan was announced around the holidays, the tests won’t arrive to Americans until later this month.
Cardona made the same admittance about “bumps in the road” to CBS’ Margaret Brennan during his “Face the Nation” appearance. He also even said that “we recognize that temporary emergency calls may be necessary to keep children safe,” when it comes to districts where they have a percentage of their staff not available due to COVID.
The secretary did begin by telling Brennan “I know we’ve had an Omicron surge, but I still believe very firmly and very passionately not only as an educator, but as a parent, that our students belong in the classroom, and we can do it safely. We have better tools than we had in the past to get it done. We know what works, and I believe even with Omicron, our default should be in-person learning for all students across the country.”
However, Cardona’s platitudes didn’t extend to involving many specifics, other than to say they’re “working hard.”
Many school districts across the country say they don’t have adequate testing and #COVID19 mitigation equipment, despite billions allocated by the Biden Administration in the American Rescue Plan.
Watch @SecCardona respond. pic.twitter.com/3G1f8xnyI2
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation)
Once again, Cardona had stuck to promoting the American Rescue Plan:
SEC. CARDONA: But it’s the expectation that through the use of American Rescue Plan funds, we address some of the shortages in staffing for the long term benefit of our students and our families.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I understand the 10 billion that was allocated in the American Rescue Plan that was months ago, but today school districts are saying they don’t have the tests.
SEC. CARDONA: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Whose fault is that if the money was allocated?
SEC. CARDONA: Right. Well, we know that this Omicron came quickly, and in many districts, there are systems set up yet. We’re working closely with those systems. We’ve partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to help develop contracts. And we’re seeing in many large districts across the country that they do have them. That, coupled with what we know, is going to help having a shorter quarantine period. We do believe our schools can remain open. We have to stay vigilant. We have to stay focused and those mitigation strategies that work and we have to continue to work together to give our students a chance to learn in the classroom.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you say now the testing is being set up, so are you saying that the federal government can ensure that every school district in the country has an adequate supply of testing this week?
SEC. CARDONA: What I’m saying is that we are working with districts to set up systems that maybe we’re not set up when there was a- a dip in spread. But we’re working closely now to make sure that they’re being set up. We’re working really hard to make sure that they have access to tests and that they have resources to provide testing.
In a subsequent response, Sec. Cardona even referenced the Build Back Better Act, which has not even passed the Senate yet. Last month, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) came out against it, effectively killing the bill.
“And I do believe that not only with American Rescue Plan, but with the plans, the proposal with the build back better agenda, we’re really going to be lifting the profession the way it should be lifted. Our educators- it doesn’t take a pandemic for us to appreciate what teachers can do. We need to continue to support them not only during the pandemic but beyond,” Cardona said in response to discussing teachers not feeling safe.
It’s worth noting that Brennan specifically asked Cardona if he has “gotten on the phone and asked the teachers unions to still show up in person.”
The teachers unions will be just as important to watch as the federal government on this, as they’ve fought having teachers return to the classrooms before, with the goalposts constantly being moved throughout the pandemic. As Matt covered in September, though, emails show that teachers unions have been the ones influencing the Biden administration, rather than the other way around. The New York Post editorial board on December 26 also discussed how the administration put the unions ahead of the science.
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