Transcription: Alberto Carvalho on “Face the Nation”, August 8, 2021
The following is a transcript of an interview with Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, aired Sunday, August 8, 2021 on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome to FACE THE NATION. The Miami-Dade County public school system is the fourth in the country. School starts there in two weeks. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is joining us from Miami-Miami. Superintendent, let me start with the governor. He signed an executive decree banning mask warrants in schools. You have about 334,000 students. The governor threatened to fund your school system if there is a mask warrant. How do you rate the governor’s order and the health of your students?
ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF MIAMI-DADE: Hello, JOHN. First, we’ve been a science-driven school system from the start, we’ve been through this terrible pandemic with the advice of experts in public health and medicine, and we’re not going to abdicate that position. We will continue to be a neighborhood guided by expert advice from professionals. It is sad that right now in America we see this rhetorical narrative deeply influenced by politics rather than medicine and the wise counsel of those who know best what is in the best interests of our students and the professionals who teach them. . But look, we are in a privileged position in Miami-Dade because we have the time in our hands. Most Florida school systems open tomorrow. We have two more weeks to continue negotiating, as Secretary Cardona has indicated, reasonable and workable solutions that achieve two things. First, the appropriate protocols for a safe reopening of schools without compromising the health insurance of our students and teachers while simultaneously avoiding these punitive funding strategies. This could be a consequence of a disregard for the executive decree or the emergency rules that were followed after the issuance of the executive decree by the Ministry of Health and Education.
JOHN DICKERSON: When do you think you should make the call?
CARVALHO: We hope to make the call immediately after our last meeting with the health task force that was convened by the school system over a year ago, which includes – which includes individuals like America’s Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Dr Aileen Marty. They are experts in the field who have advised our school system and will continue to advise public schools in Miami-Dade County.
JOHN DICKERSON: The governor says there is science, but there is also children’s mental health, which he says will be significantly affected by wearing masks. How do you rate this assessment regarding masks and students?
CARVALHO: I think it’s fair – I think it’s a fair comment that we should have a balanced set of protocols and safeguards that number one ensure health and well-being from a point of view protective and preventive of our students and employees. alongside, of course, the psychological impacts that we want to protect on the part of the students. And I think we are – we’re on the verge of being able to do that with the technologies we have in place with much improved contact tracing protocols, much improved quarantine rules in place. We believe that we can do so without having a deleterious impact on the psychological and mental well-being of students, but also while protecting the health and well-being in the school environment. Listen, I’m the one motivated by parenting choice. We have 75% of our students enrolled in non-traditional programs at Miami-Dade. We are one of the most successful urban school systems in the country and we hope to be able to negotiate a reopening of schools with protocols that number one protect our students with masks while avoiding financial consequences.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you …
CARVALHO: – and perhaps authorizing a certain degree of parental withdrawal provisions.
JOHN DICKERSON: From what I understand, you were part of a school district-wide campaign to talk to households where they were reluctant to go back to school. You apparently had a pretty good track record. You spoke to 30 families, got 23 to agree to come back. Can you tell us what those conversations looked like?
CARVALHO: Absolutely, JEAN. Look, I think across the country we’ve been extremely concerned for a long time about the unfinished learning we’ve seen in every state associated with the pandemic and social isolation. We were able very early on, based on early assessments, to determine that there were student communities, especially English language learners, fragile students who lived in poverty, and students with disabilities who were regressing in ways. very aggressive. We have identified these students. We called the parents, and the parents, quite frankly, were making decisions driven by two factors, one at work that put them in a position to keep their children at home, often older children supervising younger children, which was heartbreaking. Second, make decisions based on the underlying conditions facing the parents themselves, a loved one or the child. We reassured parents and were able to bring back to school thousands of students who are absolutely best served in a physical environment with a caring professional in front of them rather than distance education through virtual means.
JOHN DICKERSON: You grew up in Portugal in what you described as pretty dramatic poverty as you have these conversations and look at your community and what has been lost during the COVID time. Can you give me your assessment of those, the poorest who have schooling as a path to a possible opportunity in America, what has been the damage in this community?
CARVALHO: We know, JOHN, that the greatest equalizer in our democratic country is the power of public education, where 90% of our children go to school and that is, you know, so true, especially when you refer to to children in poverty who make up 75% of our student population in Miami-Dade. And we know that schools provide this ramp of opportunity, this ramp of hope for these children. This is why all our efforts are aimed at welcoming each of our children in a physical school in reality, on August 23, with an acceleration towards the full potential of all children, with longer school days, with opportunities. summer school we have built this years of serving over 75,000 students, providing additional coaches and interventionists, additional mental health professionals to frankly provide a holistic approach that will address unfinished learning that thousands of children across America have known. And this is why I am telling you, JOHN, we should pay less attention to the loud voices that are often disconnected from reason and focus our attention on students, teachers and healthy protective environments while at the same time allowing the protections. mental and social emotional for students and a certain degree, of course, of skilled parenting choice.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Superintendent Carvalho, thank you very much for being with us. Good luck with your decision. And we’ll be back with former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.