Mike Bloomberg has called on Joe Biden to stand up to the unions and tell teachers to ‘suck it up’ and return to schools as he slammed virtual learning as ‘worse than a joke’ and said the risk of contracting the virus is ‘part of the job’.
The billionaire former New York City mayor told MSNBC Thursday it is a ‘disgrace’ that children from low-income families are unable to attend classroom learning across much of America, with many kids left with no access to devices, Wi-Fi or support to join online lessons.
His comments come as parents and lawmakers are pushing for schools to reopen.
Millions of schoolchildren haven’t set foot in a classroom since the nation first shuttered last March and research has shown that grades and mental health is suffering, particularly among already vulnerable children.
However teachers are concerned about the health risks of returning to in-person learning.
There is no official death toll for teachers during the pandemic but the American Federation of Teachers, one of the biggest unions, said it knows of around 530 school staffers who died from COVID-19 last year.
The head of the CDC said Wednesday the US does not need to wait for teachers to be vaccinated before schools can reopen, with the agency last month saying there is little evidence of the virus spreading in schools.
Biden has a goal to get most elementary and middle schools open for in-person learning in his first 100 days, but Democrats and Republicans are already coming to blows over the plan and the proposed funding within the COVID-19 relief package.
Mike Bloomberg has called on Joe Biden to stand up to the unions and tell teachers to ‘suck it up’ and return to schools as he slammed virtual learning as ‘worse than a joke’ and said the risk of contracting the virus is ‘part of the job’
Bloomberg, who ran against Biden as a Democratic presidential candidate, said it is ‘time’ that children are prioritized and said teachers are ‘just are going to have to suck it up’.
‘It’s time for Joe Biden to stand up and to say, the kids are the most important things. And important players here,’ he told MSNBC Wednesday.
‘And the teachers just are going to have to suck it up and stand up and provide an education. Otherwise, these kids have no chance whatsoever.’
He urged the president to stand up to the teachers’ unions, which have long been aligned with the Democratic party.
‘The president has to stand up to the unions,’ Bloomberg said.
He dismissed concerns around the dangers of teachers returning to schools saying lots of workers ‘run risks’ and it is ‘part of the job.’
‘The teachers say ‘I don’t want to go back because it’s dangerous.’ We have a lot of city, state and federal employees who run risks. That’s part of the job,’ he said.
Preschool students at Dawes Elementary in Chicago. Bloomberg told MSNBC Thursday it is a ‘disgrace’ that children from low-income families are unable to attend classroom learning across much of America
A kindergarten child in a mask and shield in school. Parents and lawmakers are pushing for schools to reopen but teachers are concerned about the health risks of returning to in-person learning
‘You run risks to help America, to help your state, to help your city, to help your family.
‘And there’s just no reason not to have the schools open.’
Bloomberg slammed virtual learning as a ‘joke’ saying that already ‘bad education’ has now been made ‘so much worse’ for less well-off children.
‘The virtual classes are a joke – it is worse than a joke,’ he said.
‘What we’re doing to poor kids is a disgrace.
‘These poor kids are not in school. They will never recover from this – and they had a bad education experience anyway. We have not had good schools for poor kids and this now is so much worse.’
He said many children don’t have access to online learning or have a parent at home to help ensure they do their schoolwork.
‘Poor people don’t have iPads, they don’t have Wi-Fi, they don’t have somebody at home to sit during the day and force the child to pay attention and without that the virtual learning just does not exist,’ he said.
Biden has a goal to get most elementary and middle schools open for in-person learning in his first 100 days
He pointed to the teachers’ unions in Chicago where there has been ‘problems’.
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade were expected to return to schools for in-person learning Monday, but this has been put on hold as the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools officials negotiate to come to an agreement on reopening and vaccinating teachers.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that teachers do not need to get vaccinated before schools can safely reopen.
‘There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,’ she said in a White House briefing.
‘Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.’
Her comments came after a CDC study last month found little evidence of virus transmission in open schools, especially if masks are worn and social distancing is adhered to.
‘The preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring,’ the research said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured outside the Capitol Wednesday) accused Biden of putting politics ahead of science Wednesday when it comes to reopening schools
‘There has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.’
However the study did find spread among indoor athletics and recommended such classes don’t resume.
Speculation is now building over whether the Biden administration will meet its target to reopen schools in its first 100 days.
Soon after Walensky’s comments, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to backtrack saying its was not ‘official guidance’ from the CDC.
‘They have not released their official guidance from the CDC yet on the vaccination of teachers and what would be needed to ensure the safe reopening of schools,’ Psaki said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of putting politics ahead of science Wednesday when it comes to reopening schools.
‘In places across America where public education depends on the whims of a powerful public sector union, the best interests of children have often come dead last,’ he said on the Senate floor.
‘As the months have rolled by and the data have poured in, it’s become clear that schools can open safely.’
He added: ‘An administration that puts facts and science first would be conducting a full-court press to open schools.’
Biden’s coronavirus relief package includes $170 billion to support schools and universities with reopening including expanding testing, avoiding layoffs, equipment and upgrades for schools.
The president also signed an executive order requiring the Education Department and CDC to provide guidance to local schools on reopening.
Biden’s education secretary pick Miguel Cardona led Connecticut’s reopening process as education commissioner.
In his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday he said educators should be prioritized getting the vaccine.