Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos has issued a letter to the public stating "schools must be open for in-person learning" as an option for parents.
Devos, nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate in 2017, expressed her support and the support of the President for a bill which would provide scholarships to families that want to attend a school other than their assigned public school.
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has sponsored the School Choice Now Act, a bill which would provide the scholarships to families who decide to choose a school other than the one assigned to them. The bill is co-sponsored by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander.
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The bill was first submitted in July to provide an option for parents to attend a private school. Secretary Devos joins President Trump in his call to reopen schools, stating in the letter "Our schools exist because you pay for them, and you should be empowered to put your money to better use if your school isn’t meeting your needs. That starts with schools being open."
The letter does state support for families choosing to learn virtually or in a hybrid system and acknowledges that "realities on the ground" could cause disruptions. However, Devos states she believes "as the rule, schools must be open for in-person learning as an option for the families who want or who need it."
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has also echoed similar statements on his support for schools and universities to reopen but has allowed individual counties to make decisions based on how the pandemic is affecting their communities.
Nashville has been one of the counties opting to wait before returning to in-person classes. The district has also postponed extracurricular activities and events, decisions which have caused some parents to protest and call for reopening.
In a statement last week during a COVID-19 briefing, Mayor Cooper stated "Nashville's classrooms, athletic fields, courts, and gymnasiums must not be laboratories for risk in public health decisions. These are places where our children and families must know they are safe."
Senator Tim Scott's School Choice Now Act has been referred to the Committee on Finance in the Senate.
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