"Back to school has always been a special time--in your families and mine--but particularly in mine because, for all the years Jill and I are married, she was going back to school, too, as a teacher," former Vice President Joe Biden said from The Queen in Wilmington Wednesday. "Jill's an educator and she'll be the first one to tell you that this should be a season of promise for our country."
The current Democratic presidential nominee delivered on September 2, 2020, remarks on the seriousness of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges it presents reopening schools to students around the nation, and what he at multiple times called a failure by current Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump to take the issue seriously.
"This year, we're facing the most difficult circumstances. And we're seeing an awful lot of heart and a lot of grit from our educators, our students, to try to rise to the occasion here," Biden said. "Our government hasn't come up to that bar, haven't shown much grit at all, or determination. Let me be clear: If President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on with this crisis, America's schools would be open--and be open safely. Instead, American families all across this country are paying the price for his failures; his administration's failures."
Biden said he knows parents are worried about the safety of their children, and that he knows you can't help but worry as local and state administrations all across the United States struggle with the right and wrong moves for how to safely open.
A lot of that fear and anxiety could have been addressed by the president taking this seriously, listening to experts, and providing guidance based on that information to educators and parents alike.
"President Trump may not think is this a national emergency, but I think going back to school for millions of children, and the impacts on their families and the community, is a national emergency," Biden said. "I believe that's what it is. Protecting our students, our educators, our communities, getting our schools open safely and effectively. This is a national emergency."
Instead of creating a plan that would alleviate the fears of parents and help administrators devise effective reopening plans and schedules, Biden said Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have only served up "failure and delusions."
"From the start to finish, the American families and our children are paying the price for his failures," Biden said. "Failure to take this virus seriously early on in January and February and it's spread around the globe. Failure to take steps we needed back in March and April to get this pandemic under control, to institute widespread testing and tracing to control the spread. Failure to provide clear, national, science-based guidelines to state local authorities. And failure to model even basic responsibility, like socially distancing and wearing a mask. And failure to make sure educators and administrators have the equipment, the resources, and the training they need to open safely under the circumstances we find now."
Millions of students will be starting their new school years virtually, remotely, instead of heading back to classrooms because of those failures, Biden said. Of particular concern are the disparities already present in the nation's educational institutions for economically disadvantages communities and communities of color. He Doesn't want to see COVID-19 cause an even greater learning gap because of access to resources necessary for virtual learning.
"It's unacceptable, and it can't go on like this," he said, pointing to his Roadmap to Reopening Schools Safely plan.
It provides specific points of action and detailed ways to accomplish those goals, including getting the virus under control, setting national safety guidelines, providing emergency funding for public schools and child care providers, and addressing hurdles for continuing high-quality learning and negating the education gap caused by the pandemic.
He wants PPE and sanitation supplies to qualify as emergency protective measures, eligible for disaster relief and emergency assistance funding. He also wanted to ensure all students' mental health was being addressed with the anxiety a pandemic can bring to them.
"Where are you? Why aren't you working on this? We need emergency support funding for our schools and we need it now," Biden said. "Mr. President, that's your job."