Remarks at Press Event on Day of Action For The Children

September 2, 2020
Press Release

San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press event at Mission Education Center Elementary School, highlighting the impact of the pandemic on children and underscoring the urgent need for the Senate to pass the Heroes Act, which would ensure schools are safe for children, teachers and families to begin the school year without risking their health and safety.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Superintendent Matthews, for your kind words of welcome, but more importantly for your great leadership for our children, our children, our children in San Francisco.  I am particularly grateful as a grandmother of a student in our public school system in San Francisco for your leadership.  And I want to salute Mark Sanchez, President of the School Board who is with us as well and Susan Solomon the President of the United Educators of San Francisco, who is with us.  

Every time we have an education event, Susan is with us, but I’m proud to be with her today.  I say that because I’m not only with her here today, but across the country, across the country there are about 200 events of this kind that are being held.  Scores of our Members are involved, but it’s broader than that, parents, teachers et cetera having events to have a Day of Action for our schools, demanding that our children be able to go back to school safely, to receive their education safely.

Again, Carla – I’m calling you Carla, Madam Principle [Llewelyn] Vasquez, thank you for your hospitality here in this great school.  The Mission Education Center Elementary School is just about doing the Lord’s work when you’re talking about children, the Latinx community, for many of them English is a second language, immigrant families, the faces of the future of our country, giving as you said, giving them the confidence to reach their fulfillment.  It’s an honor to be here.  Thank you for your leadership and your hospitality. 

I’m glad that we’re here too with a teacher from Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Geri Almanza, who is here with her daughter Itzel, who we may be hearing from, and then Commissioner Jenny Lam from the San Francisco Board of Education and San Francisco Unified School District parent, who is here with her daughter Simone and her son Jackson.  So, we have parents, teachers, superintendent, board of education, principal, every aspect of education.

So, when the Superintendent said I always answer the same question – the question the same way, when they ask me the three most important issues facing our country and the Congress: our children, our children, our children.  I go on to say, their health, their education, the economic security of their family, a clean, safe place, gun-free for them to thrive and a world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.

The first four of those are directly addressed in the Heroes Act.  And that’s why, across the country, today we are having the focus on education.  And I’m awfully glad that as it turns out Vice President Biden will be addressing the education issue as well.

It’s important to note the following: out of the 100 largest school districts in the country, over – nearly two-thirds of them have said that they will be opening virtually, virtually, another fifteen or so hybrid, virtual and actual, and then another number, a dozen or so actual and then some haven’t figured it out yet, will see how the rate of infection is in their districts.

Having said that, you understand why the American Association of School Superintendents has said that in order for us to open, virtual, actual, hybrid, we need at least $200 billion specifically for school stabilization.  Now, that’s more than we even have in the Heroes Act, because the Heroes Act passed in May.  It passed in May.  And in that time, we were more optimistic about how schools would open, but now we know that we need more based on the scientific, institutional, academic appraisal of the School Superintendents and other entities that study what we need for our children, for our children. 

So, when the Administration says, ‘Well, the money we’re going to spend, we’re just spending most of it if you actually open up.’  That is ignoring the fact that the rate of infection in certain communities do not enable schools to open up.  So, it’s exactly bullying.  It’s bullying the schools to do what he thinks they should do.  And actually, he’s saying to parents, ‘Choose me over your child.  Go this route.’  I don’t know why, except that they are not big believers in public education, at least the Secretary of Education is not.

Now, another part of this fight is support for state and local government, because state and local government supply the money, over 90 percent of funding for our schools, over 90 percent.  So, the money we’re talking about is coronavirus centric additionally, that is needed, but in addition to that, if we do not fund state and local government adequately then they are not able to help our heroes, hence the name.  Health care workers, teachers, first responders, transportation, sanitation, food, all of the things that meet the needs of people, but again, the biggest participant in funding education in our communities.  

At the same time – and that’s one of the great stumbling blocks to our reaching an agreement.  They just won’t go there in a robust enough way.

Also – and I’m sure that everybody here who cares about children and their education understand that children need to have food.  Millions, maybe as many as fourteen, twelve to fourteen million children in our country are food insecure.  In our bill, we have tens of billions of dollars to address that.  In their bill, they had $250,000.  That’s why we have an impasse.  In their new bill, they have nothing for food.  Millions of children live in families that are on the verge of eviction.  Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, the food and housing for children to feel secure. 

So, this is about the children and about their future.  And as they begin school we want to focus on the fact that again, it’s about their education.  It’s also about their nutrition and their housing and the rest.  And the Superintendent very wisely focused also on child care.  Teachers have been declared essential workers.  Essential work means you have to go to work no matter what.  Teachers are parents.  And unless – and if kids can’t go to school actually in certain communities, what is a parent to do?  We need a robust child care component, and we have that in our bill.  In fact, we do much more than that, because it is in this year that we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote. 

It is the true unleashing of the power of women in our society.  We have to have over $200 billion in a separate package, but in this package over $50 billion dollars for child care.  It’s all connected to the well-being of our children.

So, I just wanted to share some of those thoughts for you as to why we are still at this impasse, why it is so important for us to have this day of action, how people are – Members of Congress, especially in the United States Senate, are hearing from their constituents about the safety of our children.  What possibly could be more important than sending our children back to school safely?

And in order to do that as has been mentioned by the Principal and by the Superintendent, by Principal Vasquez and Superintendent Matthews, you have to have money.  It takes money to say, if people are coming actually to school, they need more space, so that they will be spatially distancing.  They need better ventilation.  Some schools – most – many schools don’t’ have the proper ventilation.  And if it’s virtual, you need the technology that the Superintendent mentioned, and that’s in our bill.  And not only the technology, the physical piece, but the power that goes with it so you’re not in an urban desert or a rural place where the kids cannot hookup to the internet.

So, this is a place where we have debate springing from the coronavirus but central to who we are as a country.  Unless we defeat the coronavirus, we’re never going to be able to open our economy or our schools safely.  And that’s why we have a disagreement in the bill about the amount of money that is needed for as the Superintendent said, testing, tracing, treatment, distancing, mask wearing, sanitation.  Other countries have done this, and they have curbed the growth of this virus.  We have to do the same thing, and unless we make that decision, if we instead say it’s a hoax and blah, blah, blah, then we’re not going to get on top of it. 

It’s a vicious virus, and we’re hoping and praying that soon we’ll have a vaccine and therapies to help alleviate the diagnosis, but also a vaccine to prevent it.  We hope and pray for that.  But we shouldn’t have it one day sooner than it is safe or one day later than it is safe.  And so, again, we’re having our debates on the health aspects of this. 

So, our Heroes Act is about the lives, the livelihoods and the life of our democracy, and again, putting children first as we do so.

Now, it’s my honor to be able to introduce Geri Almanza, who is a teacher as I mentioned earlier at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, who is here with her daughter Itzel.

Geri, thank you. 

[Applause]

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Focusing on what is the most important, the children.  Thank you, Simone, for your very – your words of wisdom, your words of wisdom.

May I just say – join you, Madam Commissioner, in commending our Mayor, Mayor London Breed, in how she has taken so seriously the challenge of this virus.  Both as a health issue, as an education issue, as an economic issue, and in every possible way.  We’re very proud of her leadership and, so clearly, her example is one that is admired across the country. As is that of our Governor Gavin Newsom.  We’re very pleased with the leadership he has provided.  Again, the insistence that he has that we need the federal dollars in order to get the job done For The Children.

And may I just say this.  When we – it’s important for all of you to go to your social media and go to Speaker.gov/HeroesAct and see how much money goes into the community in which you live.  Whether it’s the city, the county, the state.  It’s so necessary and it’s completely coronavirus centric.  It is first, to help compensate for the outlays that the cities and the communities have made to fight the coronavirus, the actual expenses.  And also it is to compensate for the loss of revenue because of the shutdown in our communities.  

This is a big piece of the bill that they just will not accept.  And we’re saying if we don’t, our heroes will be fired.  They’ll be fired, whether, I said it earlier, health care, first responders, teachers, sanitation, transportation, food, you name it.  They will be fired.  And what happens when they’re fired?  They’ll go on Unemployment Insurance.  So, what are we saving here instead of respecting – And we have no right to honor our teachers and our heroes just by saying thank you, unless we’re there to put up our resources to enable them to get their jobs done.  We thank you.  And we want to thank you by recognizing and expressing our gratitude in the form of resources to have you do your jobs, to do your jobs.

Many of you risk your lives to save lives and now you may lose your jobs because of the refusal of this Administration to address your jobs in a scientific way – science, science, science – and the refusal to allocate the resources necessary.  I said to them this week, ‘Is it the price?  Do you think people are not worth it or is it the money?  We don’t have the money?’  

Well, money has never been cheaper.  The head of the Fed, the Federal Reserve Board has said money has never been cheaper.  Pay now or pay more later.  If you do not make the investments now in our education, in our health care, as well as preventing people from becoming – more people joining tens of millions of people who are unemployed.

So, that’s what the fight is about.  It’s about the money.  It’s about recognizing the seriousness and the need for science to address the virus.  And it is also about recognizing the role of state and local government in all of this.  And the essential need for us as to have more resources so that our children can go to school safely and soon, as Simone instructed us.

***

We’re happy to take any questions on this subject first and then any other subject you might have.  Any questions?  On the education?  

Again, understand, across the country, nearly 200 events, scores of Members, many teachers, many teachers involved.  And really to get to the point of what was said, we’ve had some of these problems, as the Commissioner said, we’ve had some of these problems before.  We’ve had disparity of access to health care before.  It’s just exacerbated with this virus.  We’ve had food insecurity before.  It’s just more so now. 

So, we’re hoping – and again, all of the needs for education – we’re hoping this challenge that we have, as it pulls back the veil on all of these disparities will be a path for us to go forward in a way that is much more fair, much more safe and much more, shall we say, friendly for the children. 

Are there any questions on this subject?  No?  Okay, great.  If you wish not to be here when they ask other questions, I appreciate that –

[Laughter]

Otherwise, any other questions?  Yes, ma’am?

Q: Speaker Pelosi, I have to ask you about your visit to this hair salon in San Francisco on Monday – it’s been quite controversial.  And I understand that it was not your first time getting your hair done inside that salon.  Can you say how many times?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I’ve been there many – over the years, I’ve been there many times.  I appreciate –

Q:  Over the lockdown.

Speaker Pelosi.  I appreciate the question and let me just say this.  I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times.  And that, when they said, ‘We’re able to accommodate people one person at a time,’ and that we could set up that time, I trusted that.  As it turns out, it was a set up.  So, I take responsibility for falling for a set up.  And that’s all I’m going to say on that.

Anything else?

Q:  Do you think you owe the service industry an apology?  I just spoke to a San Francisco barber who’s a fan of yours, he supports you, but he thinks you owe the service industry an apology.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I don’t.  I think that they – that this salon owes me an apology for setting up. 

But I will say this, in fairness to him and sympathetic to him.  We have to get our country moving again and I will not let this subject take away from the fact that we have 180,000 plus people who have died from this virus.  Since we passed the bill – more than half of those people have died since we passed the legislation.  4.6 million, I know, 4.6 million have become infected since we passed the legislation.  And there are answers.  There are scientific answers for this.  Ninety-six million – excuse me, 96 thousand people have died since we passed the Heroes Act.  So, they want to jump on this.  I think it’s really important for us to pass the bill, so in a scientific way we can address the virus so we can bring people back to work. 

I have been inundated by people who are in the hair service industry saying, ‘Thank you for calling attention to this.  We need to get back to work.  We need to get back to work.’  And many of them annoyed at the set up that was there for a purpose that has nothing to do with ending the crisis.

Any other questions?

Q:  It’s my understanding that you reached out to the salon to set up an appointment –

Speaker Pelosi.  I said – I answered what I am going to answer.  That’s all I’m going to do.  

Q:  But how was it a set up? 

Speaker Pelosi.  That’s all I’m going to do.  That’s all I am going to answer.

Q:  But how – can you explain how it was set up?

Speaker Pelosi.  Do you have any questions about the fact that people are dying, schools need to open and the rest?

I feel your questions are an opportunity, and I thank you for them, an opportunity to say they should – there’s more to this that I’m not going into as to the motivation of a salon to say to me, ‘Yes, come in,’ and then they go from there.  It was clearly a set up.  I take responsibility for falling for a set up by a neighborhood salon that I have gone to for years.  And that’s really what it is.

So, again, I think we should use it as an opportunity to say there’s so many people – I don’t know where you all get your hair cut or whatever it is, but we have a wealth of people who are engaged in these services.  And again, the state and the city, depending on the incidents of infections in those areas, decide how they function. 

If the salon is saying that we’re able to do this and they’re not, then they should not have said that and they should have been open for me to go there.  But we trusted a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to for years.

Any other questions?

Q:  Speaker, I do have a question about the Families First Act and the Heroes Act.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  For all the parents out there who have children, including myself.  What do you say to parents who – if there’s that scenario that this Heroes Act is not passed by the Senate, what do you say to the parents who are waiting for schools to open and the teachers who are concerned about their safety and for that vaccine to finally come?  That vaccine might not be here for several years.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let’s hope that it is.  The best minds in the country are hard at work at it.  The problem that – the fear that I have about the vaccine is that it will not be – that they shouldn’t rush it.  They should have the way the federal – the Food and Drug Administration has it’s normal standards: efficacy, effectiveness and safety.  And they have a series of clinical trials that are required.  You hear the Administration saying that maybe we don’t have to go through all of those trials.  No, that’s called science.  That’s called science. 

So, let’s hope.  And we put resources and we have more resources in our legislation, again and again, for investments into the – and money, actually, to develop the vaccine.  In fact, some of it is being developed on the hope that it will work, so that we’ll be completely, that we’ll be completely ready.  And that is, that is – again, we’re prayerful of it, but it shouldn’t be anytime sooner than it is ready.  Because the risk of that is not only that it isn’t working, but it will destroy confidence people have in other vaccines that may be imminent and right down the track who have gone through the whole process. 

So, what we’re saying is, all over the country, over 200 events, with the teachers and with the Members of Congress and the rest, to the Republican Senators: ‘Understand this.  We need the money.’  The money is the answer to many things.  It’s the answer to the child care that is needed.  It’s needed – it’s an answer to the ventilation, the spacing, the technology and the rest that is needed.  It’s an – it’s needed for the testing, tracing, treatment and, again, addressing the disparities.  The Latinx community has taken a bigger hit than any other community in terms of loss of life and infections on this.  It takes money.

So, I say to them, how come you were willing to spend nearly $2 trillion to give a tax cut that applied to – 83 percent for the wealthiest people in America and you do not want to place that money to help – don’t you think the American people are worth it?  We do.  That’s the fight that we’re having. 

And to the parents, again, the child care issue is very, very important to us.  Because, again, if people are – in San Francisco, we have a saying, ‘Children learning, parents earning.’  It all goes together.  Especially, now with an epidemic – a pandemic.

Yes, Ma’am?

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, on the topic of science and measures against COVID, wearing masks, I do have to ask you, your office released a statement saying that you were wearing a mask –

Speaker Pelosi.  I was.

Q:  – while you were in the salon.  But the short video clip that was released shows what looks like the fact that you’re not wearing a mask.

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I just had my hair washed.  I don’t wear a mask when I’m washing my hair.  Do you wear a mask when you’re washing your hair? 

Q:  I haven’t gotten my hair –

Speaker Pelosi.  I always have a mask.  I always have a mask, for me, for the people I’m encountering, but for my family as well.  But I don’t wear it when I’m getting my hair washed and that picture is when I just came out of the bowl, getting my hair wet.  

Any questions?  That’s it.     

Thank you all very much.