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Teacher trade unions challenge Trump's bluster over schools

Reopening safely means investing in more space and smaller class sizes, say educators

US EDUCATION unions are poised for a showdown with President Trump after he accused school governors and local officials of wanting to keep schools shut for political reasons.

Mr Trump declared on Tuesday that the government was pushing for full school reopening in the autumn, saying that his critics “think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed. No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

But Lily Eskelen Garcia, president of teachers’ union the National Education Association, said that President Trump had “proven incapable of grasping that people are dying – that more than 130,000 Americans have died.

“Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms and on college campuses with our students, but we must do it in a way that keeps students, educators and communities safe.”

Teacher trade unionists have warned that reopening schools safely means spending on making buildings safe and on supplies of personal protective equipment – but that soaring unemployment is hobbling state and city tax revenues and many administrations are implementing deep budget cuts.

Hull (Massachusetts) Education Association member Deborah McCarthy told Labor Notes reporter Barbara Madeloni: “We have schools that don’t have hot water, no air conditioning, and ventilation systems that aren’t working properly,” and that health and safety in schools was a problem even before coronavirus.

Ms Madeloni reported that teachers said safety guidelines would require “smaller classes, more classroom space, and more educators,” but that it was unclear whether the government was prepared to fund them.

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