by Andrew Whitley, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia
As the coronavirus continues to spread and Virginia’s death toll nears 1,000, this crisis is increasingly impacting the Commonwealth’s students.
Our students and educators are adapting to online learning and facing the added stress of focusing on academics during a fraught and precarious time. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has completely failed to provide necessary resources and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has actively sought to undermine their efforts.
DeVos even described the global pandemic as an “opportunity” to push her disastrous agenda and undermine our public school system. For years, she has dismissed public schools as “a dead end” and pushed to funnel education funds to private companies. While Virginians stay at home and fear for our health, DeVos has jumped at the chance to take advantage of this unprecedented disaster.
In March, Congress passed emergency education relief to help states and public school systems adjust to the pandemic and transition to remote learning. Instead of distributing that money to schools as quickly as possible, DeVos has held hundreds of millions of dollars hostage to coerce states into advancing her anti-public education agenda. Rather than helping public school teachers do their jobs, that money is being spent on courses taught by “third-party” vendors and voucherlike programs to fund private schools.
When pushed to take action that would actually help schools adapt to the pandemic, DeVos has made clear that her priorities are about politics, not students. Asked about the urgent need for high-speed internet, she suggested students can simply learn “in the woods behind your house.”
For our younger kids, these failures are costing them dearly at a critical time in their education. For older students approaching graduation, there’s even more to worry about.
With 33 million Americans out of work, seniors are graduating into the worst economy since the Great Depression. But instead of equipping them to deal with a disastrous job market, Trump and DeVos have turned their backs on Virginia’s college students right when they need help the most.
Even when Congress has taken action, the Trump administration has failed to follow through and get relief into the hands of students who need it. Nearly a month after Congress passed more than $6 billion in emergency aid for college students, DeVos admitted that she had managed to distribute just $6 million.
Even worse than failing to deliver aid, the administration is actively taking money out of students’ pockets. It was a no-brainer when Congress decided to halt forced payments from Americans struggling with student debt. But instead of putting the needs of students first, the Trump administration has continued garnishing their wages at a time when many are struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. That isn’t just a failure — it’s a knife in the back.
In times of national uncertainty, we look to the White House for leadership. This time, Virginia has been forced to go it alone. Far from rallying the country together, the Trump administration has offered nothing but chaos and incompetence at every stage of the pandemic.
Virginia’s students are paying the price for Donald Trump’s failures. They deserve better, and this November, Virginians across the commonwealth will vote to put an end to his disastrous presidency.