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DeVos says it isn't Department of Education's job to track schools' coronavirus reopening plans

DeVos says it isn't Department of Education's job to track schools' coronavirus reopening plans
© Bonnie Cash

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosErik Prince involved in push for experimental COVID-19 vaccine: report Biden administration reverses Trump-era policy that hampered probes of student loan companies DeVos ordered to testify in student loan forgiveness lawsuit MORE said Tuesday it is not the job of her department to track school districts’ reopening plans or the number of coronavirus cases they are grappling with as districts look for guidance as to how to conduct classes safely during the pandemic. 

“Well I'm not sure there's a role for the Department of Education to compile and conduct that research,” DeVos said Tuesday at an event hosted by the Milken Institute in response to a question about the role of the federal government to boost confidence regarding in-person schooling. 

“The data is there for those who want it,” she added, referring to figures kept by local and state government.

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The remarks come as public school districts across the country scramble to figure out how to provide safe, in-person instruction during the pandemic and assure anxious parents that reopening won’t help spread more cases of COVID-19.

Top education groups have formed a dashboard of school infection rates that has collected information from over 2,000 schools thus far, though educators have called on the federal government to take a more proactive role in providing guidance from Washington. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and other administration officials have been bullish that schools should reopen, expressing doubts that the coronavirus could spread among younger students who could more effectively combat the illness.

But that stance has received pushback from top activists across the country, saying the White House is downplaying the risks of reopening and should work more closely with state and local governments regarding how to safely resume schooling.

"Donald Trump's disregard for science has already cost 200,000 American lives during this pandemic. Secretaries Alex Azar and Betsy DeVos are accomplices in this malicious incompetence," National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle wrote in a September letter, referring to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.