The chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) urged members of his party to blame President Donald Trump if public schools fail as they reopen in the fall.
A report at Education Week noted Tom Perez condemned Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a virtual conference Wednesday the DNC hosted, which focused on education in Michigan.
According to the report, Perez said Democrats should place the blame on Trump, not state or local school officials if schools either not reopen or struggle to resume normal operations.
Education Week asked Perez “why Trump should shoulder primary responsibility if schools struggle, given that state and local leaders have more direct power over K-12 education”:
[H]e countered that the impact of the president’s failure to properly address the pandemic in January and February was “impossible to overstate.” Without a strong testing and tracing system, he said, schools ultimately would not be able to pick up where they left off.
According to the report, Perez rejected the notion that “if we are unable to open up our schools again, it’s somehow a failure locally when you’ve had this abject failure of the federal government to lead.”
“For this president, the buck stops anywhere but him,” he said.
In a press release about the virtual conference, the DNC said Trump has threatened to cut billions of dollars in public school funding and has attacked public schools through DeVos’s school choice agenda.
“We need an education secretary that actually believes in public education, and Betsy DeVos has undermined public education,” Perez said in a statement. “It’s the federal government that needs to lead on a pandemic, and when you have abject failure of the president of the United States in January and February to take this crisis seriously… he did not deal with it.”
Politico reported the DNC is planning continued campaign efforts in other battleground states that will include representatives of teachers and students who will say they have been negatively affected by the Trump administration.
An education department spokeswoman responded to a memo the DNC distributed with talking points that claim DeVos has undermined public schools in America.
According to Politico, Angela Morabito referred to the memo as “a pathetic, misleading and plainly false attack.”
“Secretary DeVos has moved with unprecedented speed to help America’s students and teachers,” she said, adding that the secretary began helping students without waiting for Congress to act with its CARES legislation, and, once it did so, distributed the funding “with maximum flexibility.”