(NewsNation Now) — Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says “students suffered enough” and schools should stay open, after some districts opted for remote learning due to rising COVID cases and safety concerns.
“I know we have the tools to get our school safely open,” Cardona said on NewsNation’s Rush Hour. “And we have to do everything in our power to give our students the best opportunity for success. And that means giving them an in-person learning opportunity.”
School districts in at least 14 states are going remote due to the nationwide spike in COVID cases, fueled by the omicron variant.
“As a parent and as an educator, I know our children learn best in the classroom,” Cardona said.
Chicago made national headlines Wednesday as public school classes were canceled after the teachers union voted in favor of remote learning late Tuesday night.
The White House COVID response team voiced disagreement with measures like that Wednesday.
“We know what works, to keep our schools and our staff safe,” Cardona said in response to a question about whether schools should require masks. “We should be using those mitigation strategies. That along with vaccination for our students to keep them safe and testing protocols will keep our schools open full time in person.”
NewsNation asked viewers to submit questions for the education secretary. A woman from Colorado Springs wanted to know what money has been used and what’s been purchased to keep classrooms open.
Cardona said American Rescue Plan funds provided $130 billion for schools across the country. He said the money was used for things like summer school programs, new ventilations systems, tutoring and social workers.
A total of “140,000 students lost a parent or caregiver in the last year and a half, and they’re coming back into our schools, so the emphasis on social and emotional learning has been a priority,” Cardona said.
To receive funds, Cardona said all states needed to submit a plan on how they would use the money.
“And the plan must include sections on addressing inequities that were made worse by the pandemic, but also stakeholder engagement, so ‘how are you engaging families in this process?'” Cardona said. “100% of the states provided their plans and the funds have been released.”
To make sure there was accountability, plans were posted on district websites.
Cardona also touched on student loan forgiveness, saying conversations were continuing.
One of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises was offering student loan forgiveness of at least $10,000 per person.
Cardona said close to $13 billion in student loan forgiveness and relief has been provided so far.
“In the last six months, over 600,000 borrowers received emails that they’re either closer to being debt free or are totally debt free,” Cardona said. “We’re continuing to put our students first and that’s not going to stop.”