On Friday, the White House formally declared teachers as essential workers in an effort to encourage schools around the world for in-person learning. This comes after Trump’s administration’s aggressive campaign to pressure school districts to bring students back to school even after being potentially exposed.
According to CNN, Mike Pence announced the decision to governors earlier this week. Teachers are now considered as “critical infrastructure workers” and subjected to the same kinds of advisories as other workers who have the same label, such as doctors, nurses, and law enforcement officers.
According to the guidelines for essential workers, they are expected to work even after being exposed to COVID-19, provided that they remain asymptomatic.
Pence confirmed Friday that the administration has designated teachers as essential workers, but stated that it was not a mandate.
“There’s no mandate in that, Maria. What that is, is when you’re declared an essential it means you’re going to be prioritized for things like PPE and support. But we want to get our kids back to school, but we also want our teachers to know that we’re going to make the resources available so that their schools can be a safe environment,” he said during an appearance on Fox Business.
“My wife’s going to be back in the classroom teaching next week,” he later added.
Karen Pence teaches at a private school in Northern Virginia, where she teaches art two days a week.
The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, says that designating teachers as essential workers could be used to “threaten, bully and coerce” teachers back into the classroom without the proper considerations.
“If the President really saw us as essential, he’d act like it. Teachers are and always have been essential workers but not essential enough, it seems, for the Trump administration to commit the resources necessary to keep them safe in the classroom. Rather than fund these protections, create a plan and guidance for how to ensure that school buildings can reopen safely, and follow the science,” Weingarten said.
Weingarten continued, “The Trump administration will always try to change the rules to threaten, bully and coerce. No doubt this new ‘guidance’ will be used as a pretext by Trump-supporting governors to force students and educators into unsafe buildings to serve the president’s political agenda.”
Kayleigh McEnany: “We believe teachers are essential workers … our meat packers didn't stop working didn't this pandemic … nor should our teachers." pic.twitter.com/AGhfkXTB0W
— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) August 22, 2020