BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Bakersfield Congressman and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) apologized Monday after his official Facebook account posted a political cartoon last week that some teachers and teacher unions found offensive.
The cartoon, which read “while students are stuck at home, teachers unions enjoy the good life at their expense,” featured a split screen between a boy reading on an iPad and a woman relaxing in sunshine. The message was part of a longer post in which McCarthy argued re-opening schools is the best way forward for student well-being and success.
“It was incredibly offensive,” said Jesse Aguilar, an art teacher who has taught at East Bakersfield High School for the last 24 years. “It was completely disrespectful. It showed how out of touch he is,” Aguilar, who sits on the executive board of the California Teachers Association, said.
“CTA’s position is that we need to go back to school when it’s safe. That’s the key part that seems to not be connecting with the congressman,” he said.
McCarthy issued the following statement following backlash from local educators.
“Our children are most important to the future of our communities and country. Parents, teachers, and mentors go to great lengths to keep them safe, and to educate and lead them to being good, productive citizens. This pandemic has placed enormous strains on everyone involved in education, especially our teachers who are working harder than ever, in different settings, at all different times of the day, in support of their students. That is why I would like to apologize regarding a recent post of an article and image that many have told me unfairly associated some teachers unions with all of our teachers. I never intended to suggest you aren’t working your absolute hardest for our kids—I know you do every day, in very difficult circumstances.
I am committed to getting Americans safely back to work, back to school, and back to the life and opportunities we had before the coronavirus. I believe there are better ways than community-wide lockdowns until that happens, and feel strongly that the routines that we provide to our children—especially in their education, but also their physical and mental wellbeing—must be prioritized in any legislation Congress addresses soon on COVID. Our community is unique because we never let the challenge define us. I will always remember that when serving in Washington to answer the call of our community.”
In the longer post on the Republican Leader’s official website portal, McCarthy argued school closures have led to higher-than average student failure rates. He also stated closures have hurt student mental health and have negatively impacted student overall well being, including physical health.
Aguilar said a COVID-safe environment can come only when there’s a plan in place to vaccinate all educators. He says he agrees with McCarthy about issues that have arisen due to school closures.
“I know teachers that have gotten COVID and have tried to teach while having COVID, and I know teachers who have died from COVID,” he said.
“It’s not a right or left thing, it’s not a conservative or liberal thing. It’s a health thing.”