Dennis Vega, leader of America’s Promise Alliance, Calls on President Trump To Take Covid-19 Disruption of Education, Support Systems Seriously
When the nation and families are pulling together to weather the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is disappointing to see the President minimize the impact this crisis is having on young people. During yesterday’s press briefing, when asked what he had to say to children and families stuck at home, he failed to acknowledge the hardships that many of them are facing, and stated, “Some of them are very happy not to go to school.” (Transcript of president’s comments is below.)
This is not a vacation for our nation’s children.
While we don’t yet know the full effects of Covid-19 on young people, we do know that school closures have shuttered at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools, serving at least 55.1 million students. Extracurriculars and afterschool programming have similarly ground to a halt. This has not only disrupted learning but has interrupted the essential supports that many children depend on such as school meals, the services of counselors and social workers, and access to safe places. This is not a short-term issue. We are seeing increases in food insecurity, domestic abuse, and homelessness, the effects of which will long outlast the current outbreak.
The economic impact of Covid-19 will have as significant an effect on young people as school closures. Unemployment numbers have skyrocketed, affecting parents and caregivers as well as young people themselves, many of whom were working because they provided necessary support for their families. And the job prospects for young people who were about to enter the workforce look bleak.
The physical and social isolation also frays the webs of support that caring adults like teachers, after school program staff, and mentors provide our young people, buffering them from adversity, helping to connect them to opportunities, and providing emotional support and safety. When these webs of support are ripped away seemingly overnight, our most vulnerable children risk becoming even more so.
Over the past few weeks, I have spoken with leading organizations in America’s Promise Alliance— a network of hundreds of nonprofits and organizations that collectively reach millions of young people—about the difficulties related to social distancing efforts on young people across the country. These partners are working tirelessly to fill gaps and provide resources to mitigate the effects of this crisis. Their actions on behalf of our nation’s children deserve the support and appreciation of the Administration.
The good news is that these organizations are steadfast in their commitment to young people; we need to face this challenge head on and support them. I hope that in the future, President Trump will speak directly with young people and really listen to what they are experiencing so he can understand the challenges we face as a nation and help us keep our promise to America’s children and youth in the face of this pandemic and beyond.
Dennis Vega is the interim President and CEO of America’s Promise
America’s Promise Alliance is the driving force behind a nationwide movement to improve the lives and futures of America’s youth. Its work is anchored in the belief that every young person deserves to succeed, and every adult is responsible for making that happen. By bringing together hundreds of national nonprofits, businesses, community and civic leaders, educators, citizens, and young people, , the Alliance does what no single organization can do on its own: catalyze action on a scale that reaches millions of young people. www.AmericasPromise.org
Excerpt from President Trump’s March 27 Coronavirus Task Force Media Briefing
Q Hi, Mr. President. Owen Jensen with EWTN News.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Millions of school kids across the country are home, including my own — bored, restless, learning a little bit online, but it’s better in the classroom. You know that.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q And they’re — my kids, they want to crawl on the walls and climb on the walls, and my wife is about to lose it, right? So, many of them are watching right now. What would you say to those kids right now — elementary school, middle school, high school — what would you tell them right now, who are watching from home?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say that you are a citizen of the greatest country anywhere in the world. And we were attacked like nothing that’s happened possibly since 1917 — many, many years ago. We were attacked.
And we’re winning the battle and we’re going to win the war, and it’s not going to take, hopefully, that much longer. But we have to win the war.
And I would say that they have a duty to sit back, watch, behave, wash their hands, stay in the apartment with mom and dad — they look like they’re lucky to have you as a father — and just learn from it.
But, you know, they’re — the young people have been tremendous. They — some of them are very happy not to go to school. You understand that. Perhaps yours, perhaps, not. But they’ve been — we’ve had no — we have literally had no problem. But again, they should just sit back and be very proud of our country, because we’re doing it for them. You know, ultimately we’re doing it for them, more than anything else, if you think about it.
The other thing that’s nice and the one thing that has come out, and I learned this — again, it was reaffirmed by President Xi last night in my conversation: The young people are really — this is an incredible phenomena, but they are attacked — successfully attacked — to a much lesser extent by this pandemic, by this disease, this — whatever they want to call it. You can call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus. You know, you can call it many different names. I’m not sure anybody even knows what it is. But the children do very well. It’s almost the younger they are, the better they do. I guess the immune system is, sadly, for some of us — their immune system is stronger. But actually, I’m very happy about that.
But they have been attacked — for instance, the Spanish Flu, and if you look at the H1N1, the swine — if you take a look at the swine flu, which was, as you know, not so long ago, that attacked very strongly young children, kids, middle-aged people, everyone. Age is a — age is a factor here. So your children should be in good shape. But just tell them to be very proud of the country. Okay?