"Parents and children can't be held captive to others' fears or agendas," DeVos said. "And we have got to get to a point in this country where we are supporting our families and are focused on doing what’s right for students."
"Education is about a child and their future," DeVos continued. "And we, as adults, have got to do the things necessary to step in and be that support to the children that we’re charged with."
BILL HEMMER, FOX HOST: Chris Stegall, thanks for that, sets up perfectly for the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who joins me now live from Washington.
Thank you for your time. We’ve got a lot to get through here. We might get interrupted, but we’ll see how much we can plow through, because you know millions of people –
BETSY DEVOS, U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Sounds good, Bill.
HEMMER: -- are -- you know, their futures are hanging in the balance here.
Yesterday you went to a school in North Carolina. They’ve been open for several weeks. Small school, private school, that’s my understanding. How have they done it?
DEVOS: Yes. So I had a great visit with the vice president yesterday to Thales Academy in Apex. And we visited a fourth grade class. It was amazing to be there.
The kids clearly loved being back in school. And the question I asked was, what was the best part of coming back to school. And almost to (ph) a person they said, being with my friends. And a few of them said, being with my teachers and learning better.
But the point is kids need to be with other kids. They need to be back in school. They need to be with their teachers. They need to get on with their lives. They only have one chance to be 8-years-old or 10-years-old or 12-years-old, and we have got to make sure that parents and families have that option of kids being back in person.
We know they can do it safely.
HEMMER: OK. I understand all that. But how have they done it safely at that school?
DEVOS: Well, they -- they’ve followed the suggestions and the guidelines as put out by the CDC. So they’ve set up plans and structures and processes. The kids’ desks were a little further apart. Some of them were wearing masks.
They have an age cut off for wearing a mask, the teachers were wearing masks. They’re very -- being very careful about hand washing and all of the things -- all of the practical things that we’ve been talking about.
But they’re implementing them. And they could not be more pleased, the teachers and the students, to being back in school together.
HEMMER: OK. A few more things here.
The teachers’ union, as you know, is raising significant concerns.
Here is an image here. I want to pick up a picture of a teacher in Orange County, Florida. She’s wearing a sign that says, martyr was not in the job description. What would you say to that woman who believes that she -- she would not be protected in the classroom?
DEVOS: Well first of all, I’m -- I’m sure that her school and her district is going to do -- take the steps necessary to make sure that teacher is safe and -- and does have an environment in which she can work safely.
But the -- and the key is there’s been no data that has suggested that it is unsafe for kids to go back to school. In fact, all of the recommendations are that kids need to be back in school, that schools need to open up again.
And we need to take into account the health of the whole child -- their mental health, their social-emotional growth, and especially for the most vulnerable kids for whom being in a routine, being in school, being in a classroom is of epic proportional -- in terms of their ability to advance.
We have got to stay focused on how we do this, not -- not if we do it. It’s how and how we do it safely --
HEMMER: OK. As you know -- sorry for the interruption.
But as you know, some teachers are threatening to go on strike. What if they do?
DEVOS: Well, I would say that, first of all, parents and children can’t be held captive to others’ fears or agendas. And we have got to get to a point in this country where we are supporting our families and our -- and are focused on doing what’s right for students.
Education is about a child and their future. And we, as adults, have got to do the things necessary to step in and be that support to the children that we’re charged with.
And we know that it can be done safely. And for those teachers who may have vulnerabilities themselves, there are other things that can be done so that they can continue to contribute in a major way. Perhaps they teach virtually students that are vulnerable health-wise and have to learn virtually.
But the point here is that families have to have options for their students, and we know that it can be done and it can be done well and safely for all involved.
HEMMER: You (ph) wonder what the risk is not to go back to class. I was looking at Dr. Redfield’s comments from the CDC yesterday. And just to paraphrase his words, he said, we’re seeing more suicides and overdoses among high school students than COVID cases, which leads to the question, what is the risk of not being in a classroom?
DEVOS: That is absolutely the question. And there was one mom in the roundtable yesterday who talked about her teenage daughter who was very depressed, and she said she was a shadow of her former self the last several months. All it took was one day back in school. She said it was like a 180 degree turn around.
And those stories are -- are -- are true across the country. Kids have got to get back to school. We can do this, and we know that teachers and education leaders across the country can come together and can solve the most local issues and questions if they just resolve to do so.
HEMMER: Well, Dr. Fauci is talking right now. So we may dip in, in a moment. But billions of dollars -- I see the camera moving off of him -- billions of dollars has been passed through Congress to try and get schools open. What would that money do?
DEVOS: Well, there’s already been over $13 billion appropriated to K-12 schools for the purpose of addressing the issues arising from the virus. And much of that money hasn’t even actually been spent yet.
So we can start with that. And we know that Congress is talking about what needs to be done in addition to that –
HEMMER: But -- but give me a practical -- a practical example for how a school district would use that money.
DEVOS: Well, obviously they want to have the appropriate cleaning supplies and face masks for those who have -- can’t bring their own or have their own for -- the plans for -- for one way hallways or tight -- loosening up spaces. Maybe perhaps they use an outdoor space for some classes in weather that permits and put a little tented covering over it.
I mean there’s an endless number of things that could be -- could be done. But all of these decisions and plans are best accomplished at the most local level and in concert with parents and students who really are the ones that we’re there to serve.