July 17, 2020 

Joe Biden’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools Safely

Educators, students, and families have done an incredible job in difficult circumstances over the last four months. Everyone wants schools to fully reopen for in-person instruction. Creating the conditions to make it happen should be a top national priority. Joe Biden believes that the decision about when to reopen safely should be made by state, tribal, and local officials, based on science and in consultation with communities and tribal governments. It should be made with the safety of students and educators in mind. And, it should be made recognizing that if we do this wrong, we will put lives at risk and set our economy and our country back.

The challenge facing our schools is unprecedented. President Trump has made it much worse. We had a window to get this right. And, Trump blew it. His administration failed to heed the experts and take the steps required to reduce infections in our communities. As a result, cases have exploded. Now our window before the new school year is closing rapidly, and we are forced to grapple with reopening our schools in an environment of much greater risk to educators, students, and their families than there would have been if America had competent leadership. 
 
Over a month ago, Biden identified 
key steps that Donald Trump needed to take to reopen our schools safely. Trump has taken none of them. In fact, he’s done the opposite. He has threatened to force schools to reopen for in-person instruction without the basic resources they need to keep students, educators, and communities safe. If Trump had actually done his job as President, the decisions facing our schools would look fundamentally different.
 
Joe Biden has a simple five-step roadmap to support local decision-making on reopening schools safely and to help students whose learning was interrupted: 
 
Get the Virus Under Control: Months into this crisis, infection rates are spiking across the country, personal protective equipment (PPE) is still in short supply, and hospitalizations and deaths are unacceptably high. We have only weeks to go before the school year begins, and we have no plan, no leadership, and no additional resources to fight this crisis. We do not have sufficient testing, adequate contact tracing, or reliable supply chains. It is outrageous that Trump forced educators, parents, and caregivers into this situation. If we want to reopen schools safely, we need to get cases down in states and communities across America. Now. That means mask wearing and appropriate social distancing guidelines that match the virus trajectory in a community. In addition, Biden has laid out comprehensive plans on March 12April 27, and June 11, among others, to:

Set National Safety Guidelines, Empower Local Decision-Making: The Trump Administration’s chaotic and politicized response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own. Schools need clear, consistent, effective national guidelines, not mixed messages and political ultimatums. Biden would task the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies with establishing basic, objective criteria to guide state, tribal, and local officials in deciding if and how reopening can be managed safely in their communities, including:

Provide Emergency Funding for Public Schools and Child Care Providers:Schools urgently need emergency financial support, but what they have gotten from Trump is bluster and bullying and, worse, threats to further slash their funding. As a result of Trump’s failure to lead, states could face drastic budget shortfalls totalling $555 billionover state fiscal years of 2020-2022. Left unaddressed, these shortfalls could result in significant layoffs. According to one analysis, just a conservative 5% decrease in state education funding would result in the loss of almost 28,000 school positions, including teachers, counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. 

As President, Biden will always put our children, educators, and families first. He believes public schools, especially Title I schools - should have all the resources they need to safely return to in-person instruction and support all students. Biden is: 

Ensuring High-Quality Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic: We are continuing to learn how to best support students, educators, and their families through this challenging time. Biden would mobilize a large-scale U.S. Department of Education effort to work with practitioners to develop, adopt, and share the latest tools and best practices to ensure high-equality learning during this pandemic. This effort would include:

Closing the COVID-19 Educational Equity Gap: Despite the best efforts of educators, students, and familiesthis crisis, coupled with long-standing racial inequities, has led many students, especially low-income students and students of color, to struggle and fall behind. New research shows that some students could even lose an entire year of academic gains. As President, Biden would: