Education Secretary to state leaders: 'Don't be the reason why schools are interrupted'

By:  Joseph Choi
The Hill

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Thursday called on state leaders like Govs. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Greg Abbott (R-Texas) to not "be the reason why schools are interrupted," and spoke out against the inclusion of "politics" in school reopenings.

During a press briefing, Cardona was asked what he would say to DeSantis and Abbott, who have both banned mask mandates for schools in their respective states.

"Don't be the reason why schools are interrupted. Kids have suffered enough," Cardona said. "Let's do what we know works. Let's do what we know works across the country. We shouldn't — politics doesn't have a role in this. Educators know what to do."

Both of the governors' states have seen a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, with Florida hitting record one-day case totals in recent weeks.

DeSantis on Wednesday hit back at President Biden after the president criticized some governors' decisions to ban mask mandates, telling them to "get out of the way of people who are trying to do the right thing."

“Why don’t you do your job, why don’t you get this border secure and until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you,” DeSantis said during a news conference in response to Biden.

Cardona on Thursday took on a less critical tone when addressing state leaders who have banned mask mandates.

"At the end of the day I want to work with Texas, I want to work with Florida. I want to make sure those students have access to in-person learning," Cardona added.

"We want to be an ally and make sure that we're supporting our students. At the end of the day we're talking about students being in classrooms. They've suffered enough. It's time for them to be in the classroom without disruption to their learning."

Cardona added that he was concerned some decisions are made without putting students' health and safety first, and these decisions will result in school disruptions.

"This is not our first time doing this, we have the benefit of the experience of last year," he said. "We have strong CDC guidance, the Department of Education has several handbooks."