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Western PA Teachers Tell Jill Biden That They Need Reopening Plan

Matt Rourke

Jill Biden says her husband, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, would have had a plan for safely reopening schools.

Jill Biden, who is a teacher herself and often speaks as a surrogate during Biden’s education events, talked with Pittsburgh-area teachers, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis and Senator Bob Casey virtually Tuesday about Biden's recently-released reopening plan, which emphasizes local decision-making for reopening schools. Meanwhile, President Trump has pushed for in-person instruction across the country and has threatened to withhold funding from schools that don't open.

Earlier this month, Trump said to incentivize school reopening, he would request $105 billion in education funding as part of the next coronavirus relief bill to support schools. The President said $35 billion of that funding would go to schools that reopen. 

Pittsburgh Classical Academy Spanish teacher Rob Mitchell said teachers want to return to classrooms when it is safe to do so.

“I can’t help but think that if Donald Trump had just adopted Joe Biden’s plan to reopen schools all of those months ago, what a different place that we’d be in,” Mitchell said.

Esposito-Visgitis praised Biden and called him a “champion for educators and students." Jill Biden, who taught at a community college during the eight years she was the Second Lady, said she is working to get her husband elected so she can ensure that educators have a voice in federal decision-making. She said her husband wants to be a partner to educators. 

“No matter what we see on the news, we are seeing that our nation still beats with courage and kindness,” she said. “We need leaders who are going to lead us forward and not hold us back.”

During the call, Beaver Area High School teacher Laura O’Rorke said one of the issues in education is what she perceives to be a lack of respect for the teaching profession.

“I have to question the respect level when being asked to go back into the classroom in the middle of a pandemic without a proper plan in place – a proper plan like the one I think Vice President Joe Biden has laid out and that I hope we get to implement,” she said.