OPINION: Sununu, Trump, and DeVos have failed to lead on school reopening

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your call.

This month, Betsy DeVos was meant to visit Bedford schools to tout Sununu’s leadership on school reopening – but was forced to cancel one of the events when a teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

It didn’t have to be this way. As a nurse, I have seen how Sununu, Trump, and DeVos’ failure to lead on school reopening is putting our students, teachers, and families at risk. Here’s how New Hampshire got here. 

First, Sununu failed to provide public health guidance to reopen schools safely, instead punting all school reopening decisions to the local level. As school boards struggled to come up with a safe and effective plan, the governor provided no guidance or leadership. New Hampshire teachers rightly criticized Sununu for his “complete failure of leadership” while local school boards were left to pick up the pieces of his mismanagement. 

Then, Sununu didn’t give the financial assistance schools needed to reopen safely, instead using taxpayer COVID relief money for kick-backs to friends, donors, and big corporations. Sununu has given no-bid contracts to his campaign contributors and political allies to the tune of millions of dollars as our schools struggle to educate our kids during an unprecedented crisis. If this behavior sounds familiar, it’s because the occupant of the Oval Office has made national headlines for giving his political allies lucrative government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies that received federal contracts for personal protective equipment were awarded to inexperienced suppliers who had ties to the Trump administration. Some of these companies even registered to do business with the government for the first time this year, some just days before successfully winning a contract. Our schools need financial aid to reopen safely, but Sununu and Trump have used taxpayer money meant for COVID-19 relief funding as giveaways to donors and political allies instead. 

Finally, Sununu ignored the advice of medical experts and opposed a basic, common-sense mask requirement in schools to keep students, teachers, and administrators safe. The New Hampshire Nurses Association has been pushing Sununu to institute a commonsense mask requirement so that there is clear and consistent messaging from the state, but instead of clear messaging, Sununu delivered chaos on this issue. Sununu’s own state epidemiologist referred to the governor’s sham reopening plan as “swiss cheese,” because of its multilayered holes and safety gaps. Sununu ignored medical experts and now students, parents, educators, and staff in New Hampshire are the ones at risk.

As a nurse, I want to make sure that our schools are safe. Chris Sununu followed Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ plan to reopen schools by providing no serious guidance, failing to provide adequate funding to safely reopen, using COVID-19 relief funds for giveaways to his friends and political allies, and failing to institute a common-sense mask mandate. Granite State students, parents, and educators deserve better.

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? We provide a platform for thoughtful opinions on topics of interest, regardless of your point of view. Send to carolrobidoux@manchesterinklink.com, subject line: The Soapbox.

Candace Moulton is a registered nurse and a mom of two. She is running for State Representative in Hillsborough District 44: Manchester wards 8, 9, and the town of Litchfield.