Even as Maine’s public schools continue to provide thousands of meals each week to students in need and demonstrate a deep commitment to continuing students’ education during tough times, wealthy private schools are set to receive a boost from the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress at the expense of high-poverty public school districts due to guidance issued by Trump’s Education Department, under the leadership of Secretary Betsy DeVos. The move could be a “substantial blow” to school districts that serve more low-income students and students of color.

DeVos views the public health crisis as an “opportunity” to push her disastrous agenda undermining the nation’s public school system, calling the disruption “reaffirming” to her long held beliefs on alternative education models, which have included referring to public schools as “a dead end”, promoting taxpayer funded vouchers for private education, and supporting online charter schools.

Just last year, the Maine State Legislature passed two bills sponsored by Rep. Michael Brennan of Portland, who serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, one keeping the cap on charter schools in Maine at ten, and another capping the number of students at for-profit virtual charter schools after hearing convincing evidence showing poor educational outcomes for enrolled students.

“As schools have been forced to shut down across the country, teachers and school staff have turned dining rooms into classrooms and worked harder than ever to engage students remotely,” said Brennan, D-Portland. “But instead of reinforcing just how important teachers and public schools are to our students, Trump’s Education Department, under the leadership of Betsy DeVos, is working overtime to undermine public schools in this midst of a pandemic.

President Trump’s well-documented failures throughout the pandemic have not only hurt Maine’s frontline heroes, workers, and small businesses, they’ve also hurt Maine’s students, teachers, and education system. Just as Trump’s dysfunctional and chaotic response has made this crisis worse than it needs to be, the same can be said for his Education Department under the leadership DeVos.

“Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have proved time and again that their ideological agenda is more important than the educational outcomes of our nation’s students, so unfortunately it’s no surprise that they would take advantage of a pandemic to further their all-out assault on public education,” said Kathleen Marra, Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. “Our public schools are doing the best they can during these tough times, and instead of making sure they get the support they deserve, Trump and DeVos are pushing policies that will worsen this crisis.