Teachers’ union leaders say they are pleased with Biden’s sense of urgency and focus, but warn that a 100-day bet could be a goal rather than a fixed goal.
Biden is expected to sign several executive actions on Thursday, his second day in office, to support the resumption goal and establish a national strategy to control the coronavirus, but the measures do not require schools to reopen within a certain period of time.
An executive order will direct the Ministries of Education and Health and Social Services to provide guidelines for opening schools with a focus on masking, testing and cleaning. A separate presidential memorandum will propose reimbursement for schools for the purchase of personal protective equipment through the Federal Emergency Management Agency̵
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Carol Johnson, co-ordinator of Biden’s Covid tests, acknowledged that the resumption period may need to be extended.
“The health and safety of students, teachers, staff and families are paramount. The administration will always be honest about the challenges we face, including how and whether changes in the pandemic could affect the reopening of schools or the ability of schools to reopen, “Johnson said.
Trade union leaders are questioning the 100-day deadline
The leaders of the unions describe a close working relationship with Biden’s team, but claim that the 100-day goal is a great challenge.
“I’m on board with the goal, but I’m very concerned about this new option. None of this is done in isolation,” Weingarten said.
National Education Association President Becky Pringle said the 100-day bet sends a strong message that rebuilding schools is a top priority for Biden, but that “it’s not about the days, it’s about the urgency he raises.”
“It’s an aggressive plan, no doubt,” Pringle added, noting that “nothing teachers want to do other than get back to safety with their children.”
Congress is invited to provide the resources needed for reopening
Teachers’ unions and Democrats have long argued that the possibility of opening schools also depends on available resources. Biden is urging Congress to approve another $ 170 billion for K-12 schools, colleges and universities to help them work safely in person or facilitate distance learning. Congress approved $ 82 billion in school aid in December, which Biden said he considered a “down payment.”
The American Federation of Teachers calls for five specific things that schools will have to reopen: tools such as masks and cleaners to mitigate the spread of the virus in buildings, testing and tracking contracts, placement for teachers at risk, rapid vaccinations for teachers, and honesty and transparency about the guidelines.
Bechara Choucair, Biden-elected head of vaccine coordination, said Wednesday that the administration would call on states to open up the right to vaccinate teachers, along with first responders, grocery store workers and people over 65.