Aug 19, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 546 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: School voices you should hear

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An entire sector of America's education workforce faces paycheck jeopardy in the upcoming weeks that moving to remote learning can't easily fix, reports Axios' Marisa Fernandez.

Why it matters: Half of America’s education workers aren't teachers, ranging from bus drivers to custodial workers and food service staff, and their jobs are precarious in this era of state budget crises and remote learning.

  • These positions are often credited for many students’ positive experiences with school, a study from Brookings notes. 

The big picture: Schools serving kindergarten through college spent months to find ways to teach in-person, but America's horrific second wave threw those plans overboard.

  • Now schools that spent millions to reopen are closing almost immediately after opening, another big hit to pandemic-strained budgets.
  • "[Remote learning] has an impact on staff obviously if there’s nobody in the building. ... Consequentially, school districts are furloughing them as a result of that," School Superintendents Association executive director Dan Domenech told Axios.

The bottom line: Some school districts will have to get creative to keep staff employed because bus drivers and maintenance workers can’t work from home like teachers.

Go deeper: A university president discusses reopening safely (Listen)

2. Sneak peek at Harris, Obama remarks

Photos: Drew Angerer; Scott Olson via Getty Images

Former President Obama will tell Americans tonight that "democracy itself is on the line," Axios' Alexi McCammond tells me.

  • Obama will frame the choice between Biden, who served as his VP for both terms, or a second term of President Trump, as a choice between hope and cynicism, an aide said.

Kamala Harris' speech, expected to be heavily personal, is meant to allow "people to see themselves in her speech," advisers to both tell Axios.

  • As the first Black woman and first Asian American woman to be named to a major-party U.S. presidential ticket, Harris' speech is expected to draw on themes of diversity and inclusion.

More excerpts as they roll in.

3. Catch up quick

Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama speaks during last night's DNC roll call. Photo: Democratic National Convention via AP

  1. Apple became the first U.S. company to reach a $2 trillion valuation.
  2. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom still expects the creation of a Palestinian state before it will normalize relations with Israel. Go deeper.
  3. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's alleged suspension of operational changes and cost-cutting "is wholly insufficient and does not reverse damage already wreaked." Go deeper.
  4. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) cautioned against calling his state a "COVID success story," telling me during an Axios virtual event today that this "thing is insidious." Go deeper.
4. "It is what it is" becomes DNC catchphrase

Workers ready the stage in Wilmington, Delaware, for the third night of the DNC. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

It's the new "depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is" — President Bill Clinton's instant-classic evasion in grand jury testimony in 1998.

  • President Trump's comment about the virus to Jonathan Swan on "Axios on HBO" — "It is what it is" — became an online sensation.

Now, it’s being invoked repeatedly by prime-time speakers at the Democratic National Convention:

  • Michelle Obama: "Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is."
  • Bill Clinton: "When asked about the surge in deaths, he shrugged and said, 'It is what it is.' But did it have to be this way?"
  • Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer: "Donald Trump says, 'It is what it is.' Presidents should never say, 'It is what it is.' President Lincoln, honoring the great sacrifice at Gettysburg, didn’t say, 'It is what it is.' President Roosevelt — seeing a third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished — didn’t say, 'It is what it is.'"
Mike Allen