COLUMBUS, Ohio — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made a virtual visit to Ohio on Tuesday to talk education. But educators here in Ohio say that visit didn’t include those in the field from any organizations within the state. And that’s raising some eyebrows, as DeVos is already under fire for calling for schools to reopen fully.
Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro and other educators around Ohio didn’t hold back on their feelings when it came to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s stance on the reopening of schools without guidance.
“Two words come to mind…ummm…callous and clueless,” said DiMauro.
Others indicated that they found her latest comments, along with the White House administration’s threat of cutting funding if they didn’t reopen fully, offensive.
Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper was just one of a few who joined the panel discussion hosted by the Ohio Democratic Party.
“The rhetoric is dangerous. The rhetoric causes some people to perhaps feel like they have to shortcut on safety measures out of fear they’re gonna lose money," she said.
Ahead of DeVos's visit, they were frustrated not just with the comments, but the pressure to reopen.
Cropper added, “And while she’s talking about reopening schools and offering no plan, she is also not talking to any educators in this state, although she’s making a personal appearance virtually to talk to the Federalists.”
Educators believe the Trump administration and Secretary DeVos don’t understand the massive undertaking required to reopen schools, nor do they care about who may be harmed in the process.
For school board members like Sam Shim of Worthington City Schools, it hits home a little deeper, as his father recently died of COVID-19. As a result, Shim said districts don’t want to be bullied into making poor decisions.
“All of us want to reopen schools, but we do not want to take unnecessary risks," said Shim.
While all on the panel appreciated the distribution of CARES Act funding, they are still looking for a collaborative effort from the White House on down to make sure school restarts safely.
In the meantime, union leaders say they are actively looking for ways to protect teachers this school year as a part of their bargaining negotiations. That includes making sure they get the sick days and quarantine days if needed. This all while districts attempt to plan their reopenings according to the COVID Alert Map Governor Dewine released not too long ago. For now, they plug away with a slight hope that DeVos will turn a corner on her rhetoric.
Educators from both unions say they did not reach out to Betsy DeVos or her team for a response to her virtual visit to Ohio on Tuesday. They have left contact to their national unions. However, they say based on previous attempts, they don’t believe she had an expressed interest in speaking with them.