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‘You have no plan.’ Ayanna Pressley criticizes Betsy DeVos for pressuring schools to reopen

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley spoke before the Massachusetts State House in June.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley spoke before the Massachusetts State House in June.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley criticized Betsy DeVos’ plan to reopen schools amid spiking cases of coronavirus on Sunday, saying the US secretary of education has “no plan.”

Pressley took to Twitter to air her disapproval, retweeting a CNN video of an interview earlier in the day with DeVos, who threatened to cut funding to schools that do not fully resume in-person learning.

In the CNN video, DeVos cited information from the YMCA that showed low rates of viral spread among children who attended childcare facilities.

“There’s going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” DeVos said. “And where there are little flare ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis, and there’s ample opportunity to have kids in school.”


Pressley responded to the video, saying that many parents, children and teachers “are fearing for their lives.”

“You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers,” she said. “I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child.”

DeVos said in the CNN video that school leaders may have to look to the particularities of their district.

“There’s many counties across the country have virtually no cases, and so school leaders need to be looking at the granular data right on the ground where they are, and looking at if there are problems, how they’re going to deal with them,” DeVos said. “But the goal needs to be that kids are learning full time this fall.”

The Trump administration denounced guidelines for returning to the classroom released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, with President Trump calling the recommendations “very impractical.” Agency leaders said they plan to stand by their guidelines, despite the criticism.


The CDC is advising schools to cancel large gatherings and encourages students and staff to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart at all times. It also says “extended school dismissals” might be necessary in areas where the virus is spreading rapidly.

Governor Charlie Baker responded to threats to cut federal funding from school districts that don’t reopen for in-person classes on Wednesday, saying it is “inappropriate for the feds to think about this as a one-size-fits-all.”

In Massachusetts, state guidelines for reopening schools will require staff and students in second grade and above to wear masks, sit at least three feet apart, and eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms. Temperature checks and COVID-19 testing will not be required.

All Massachusetts school districts are required to submit three possible plans for resuming education to the state in August: one for remote learning only, another for returning students to school buildings, and a third that includes in-person and remote education.