Tracy Mitrano believes reopening the economy and reopening school systems are important issues to address. The politicizing of both issues, however, puts essential workers in danger.

“We have to get politics out of the school reopening issue, just as we direly need to get politics out of how this country is going to address the pandemic,” said Mitrano, the Democratic challenger for the 23rd congressional district, which includes the Greater Olean area, during her weekly media call Thursday. 

Maintaining public health by using evidence-based research should be at the forefront of America’s focus, Mitrano said. Reopening public schools should have different options based on the developmental stages of public school students, from pre-k to grade 12.

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During the call, Mitrano also challenged Tom Reed, the 23rd district incumbent, on his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he echoes ​President Donald Trump’s casual mindset on the coronavirus as well as his criticisms of New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Reed, she added, has not put public health first considering whether schools should reopen for the fall. 

“I will not sacrifice our children on the altar of Tom Reed’s politics,” Mitrano said. 

Mitrano offered that schools should be reopened based on local factors, such as cost, health monitoring, access to staff and available personal protective equipment available.

A member of the media attending the call referenced a statement Cuomo released Wednesday pertaining to his stance on schools opening in the fall.

“School reopenings are a state decision, period,” ​the governor stated. “If it's not safe for my child, it's not safe for your child. So, we'll get the data, and we'll make that decision in August.”

Mitrano voiced her agreement with Cuomo’s hesitancy to reopen schools during the pandemic,  noting  she had not read his statement in full yet. 

“Once the damage of this awful virus became apparent, the governor used an evidence-based approach to manage it,” Mitrano said. “All things considered, it does seem to have worked and has been appropriate.”

She also criticized states such as Florida for not taking the same approach as New York.

“When you put politics against a virus, the virus is going to win,” Mitrano said. 

Mitrano also gave her thoughts on the announcement made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Monday that international students may be sent home if all their classes are scheduled to take place online.

She said she thought it was another politicization against education, specifically against immigrants. 

“(Trump) has used this epidemic as a vehicle by which to achieve a goal of closing our borders,” Mitrano said. 

She elaborated that higher education has genuinely made America great.

“We have people coming from all over the world that want to be part of our system, who want to partake of our values and, in the case of education, they want to get quality education,” Mitrano said.

She added that the perspectives of international students enhance the experiences of students in higher education and that politically attacking these students damages colleges and universities.

“It does not respect the culture and tradition of higher education in the United States,” Mitrano concluded.

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