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Interview with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona; Florida Passes GOP-Backed Bill Restricting Voting; Restaurants Struggle to Find New Hires as Demand Increases; "United Shades of America" Premieres Sunday at 10 P.M. Eastern. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 30, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Once vaccines are green lighted for younger Americans, should that be a school requirement?

MIGUEL CARDONA, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: I'll leave that to the CDC to determine whether or not it should be a requirement.

But I do know the vaccinations have helped us safely reopen schools as quickly as possible. So I would encourage folks to get a vaccine once it's safe to do so.

Because that's going to contribute to us being able to reopen and get back to a sense of normalcy where kids are learning together in schools where they should be.

CABRERA: Given we do have to have vaccines, or our children have to have vaccines for a lot of other diseases -- I think of my own kids, with the MMR vaccine, the polio vaccine --


CABRERA: -- the TDAP vaccine -- why wouldn't you require a vaccine for COVID?

CARDONA: Well, again, those are medical decisions that I'm going to leave to the medical experts and the health experts.

I want to make sure we're focusing on when our students do get back into schools we're providing them the support they need.

We know that some students were hit harder by the pandemic than others. I want to make sure our systems are ready to meet their academic and social and emotional needs.

That's the focus we're taking as educators across the country.

CABRERA: Let's talk about that, then, because you're right, educational disparities have widened during the pandemic. Research showing black, Hispanic and poor students in elementary school fell further behind in reading and math, compared to their classmates when school shut down.

How do you plan to address that?

CARDONA: We have to be honest, transparent, and bold with our actions. You know, the American rescue plan is -- provides the funds for us to think boldly, to really reimagine education and make it better than it was in March 2020.

We have to make sure we're targeting our support, targeting our resources to those students that were hit the most. So that's how we do that.

And now with the American Families Plan, we know that if we're able to provide two years of early childhood education, two years of community college for students, that's how we not only recover from the pandemic, but make sure that we make an educational system that's better than ever before.

CABRERA: I want to ask you about the American Families Plan in a moment.

But I also have to ask about this renewed racial reckoning our country is facing right now.

And just this morning, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, sent you a letter demanding the federal government remove from grant programs the 1619 Project, which focused on reframing American history when it comes to slavery and the contributions of black Americans.

What's your response?

CARDONA: You know, I have yet to see the letter. But the reality is that when we're discussing curriculum, the federal government doesn't have a role in the curriculum development.

But I have complete confidence that educators across the country, as they develop curriculum and lessons, to ensure that we're providing diverse perspectives in our curriculum, so students can see themselves in it, but doing it in a way that builds community in our schools.

I have complete confidence the educators will get it right.

CABRERA:: I do want to can you about President Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.

It includes significant investments in education, everything from universal pre-kindergarten, which you mentioned, to free community college, raises for childcare workers.

You know the criticism. How do you pay for it? How do you sell this to Republicans, and Americans, wary of higher taxes?

CARDONA: You know, as on educator for over 20 years, I'm thrilled with this investment in education in our country. And, you know, we have this saying, you pay now or pay later.

Good early childhood education is a foundation for strong educational performance of our students.

And we know, the data shows, two years of community college allows you to have a 21 percent increase in earning potential as a graduate.

So it's not only good for the student. It's for the community and it's good for our country.

CABRERA: Some Democrats are arguing you should be cancelling student debt, up to $50,000 per student. You were tasked weeks ago to look into this for President Biden.

It's not in this plan. Why not?

CARDONA: We're still continuing to look at how we can support students that are heavy in debt.

But I think it's critically important we communicate we need to stop the bleeding. We have to make sure we're improving those practices that prevent students from being in such debt.

We have to look at public service loan forgiveness in our agency. We have to make sure that our borrowing defense is up to par.

And we have to make sure that the return on investment our students are getting will allow for them to go on and lead happy lives and not be burdened with so much debt.

So it's more than just looking at the loan forgiveness for those students with loans. But it's also making sure we're not continuing the cycle so that, five years from now, we're in the same situation.

CABRERA: Could we see the president take action on cancelling student debt?

CARDONA: I know that's among many other things the president is -- and the White House team is looking at that. As are we, and we're continuing conversations around that.

CABRERA: Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CARDONA: Thank you, Ana.


CABRERA: Florida is one of the states in which Republicans didn't declare rampant fraud in the 2020 election. And it is where former President Trump himself voted by mail.

So why did Republicans just pass a sweeping bill to restrict voting? We'll take you live to that state's capital, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CABRERA: Florida is one signature away from making it more difficult to vote. Florida's Republican-controlled House and Senate pushing through a controversial bill last night in a vote divided along party lines.


Now this comes as we got new CNN polling released within the last hour that reflects that partisan divide, with Democrats supporting expanding voter access and Republicans voicing support for more restrictions.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Tallahassee for us.

Dianne, all that's left is the governor's signature. But I don't get why they're doing this, given Republicans were pointing to Florida as the model to follow in the last election.

This is where former President Trump himself voted by mail.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. But here's the thing, even the governor, Governor Ron DeSantis, he indicated he would sign this bill into law.

But in his State of the State, he called the last election the most transparent and efficient election in the nation.

The sponsors of this legislation heralded just how smooth and secure and successful Florida's election was.

And so why the change? Well, Democrats asked that same question on the floor repeatedly during hours of debate leading up to this, several iterations of this bill.

What's in the final legislation? Well, look, it does a lot. But if we're going through some of the main points here, it adds new identification requirements for voting by mail.

It also limits who can handle completed mail-in ballot. It requires voters to request a mail-in ballot annually, instead of every two years, which is how it's been in Florida.

It also expands the power of those partisan observers at the ballot tabulation process. And it adds limitations and restrictions to drop boxes.

And if you look at that -- again, there's a lot more in the bill, but if you look at those changes, you see a lot about mail-in voting.

And Democrats say they believe that that's because, last election in 2020, Ana, it was the first time they had ever outpaced Republicans when it comes to returning mail-in ballots.

Republicans say this is simply adding guardrails to prevent people from gaming the system in the future -- Ana?

CABRERA: Dianne Gallagher, in Tallahassee, Florida, thank you for your reporting.

COVID cases and restrictions are down here in the U.S. Restaurants reopening, but they're facing a new challenge. And it could impact your dinner reservations this weekend.

Stay with us.



CABRERA: Businesses are reopening, and that includes restaurants. But as you start to go back out to eat, maybe you have dinner reservations this weekend, be prepared to not get the level of service you were used to before the pandemic.

And that is because restaurants are warning they are struggling to find workers right now.

Joining us is Daniel Halpern. He's the CEO of Jackmont Hospitality. He runs 50 TGI Fridays and other restaurants.

Great to have you with us, Daniel.

You are struggling to staff up. Walk us through the challenges right now. What are you experiencing?

DANIEL HALPERN, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, JACKMONT HOSPITALITY: Thank you so much for having me on, Ana.

I would like to say we will give you the same level of service that you're accustomed to. It's just a little harder for us as operators of restaurants.

So right now, obviously, we're having a shortage. Some of it is certainly being driven by the stimulus and the opportunity for people to stay at home and make comparable wages to what they would make if they were at work in our restaurants, not quite as much but certainly close.

The other thing, obviously, is just a supply of workers. I think as Washington, D.C., works its way through comprehensive immigration reform, those of us in the service sector we just need more employees.

So now we're battling two fronts. We're battling a shortage that preexisted COVID but now dealing with the issues fighting against some of the things occurring due to stimulus due to COVID-19.

CABRERA: According to "The Wall Street Journal," other restaurants are experiencing a very similar situation. So they're trying to provide extra incentives, increasing wages, offering bonuses, providing family leave, paying for college tuition.

What are you doing to recruit workers?

HALPERN: So certainly, bonuses are something all of us are doing. One of the things we're really digging in on, that is kind of a

modernization through the financial technology innovations happening in all spaces, but certainly in our space, is paying people the day they work, trying to get people paid quicker.

The other option it gives to our employees is, once they have four weeks under their belt, they can borrow against a paycheck for a couple dollars. It takes the old payday lending and makes it considerably more reasonable and affordable to our employees.

So I think we're all struggling -- maybe not struggling. Trying to be creative and how we can best approach workers and convince them that coming back to work is the best thing they can do.

Certainly, as the stimulus dollars start to fall off, we certainly hope that the demand will increase for workers for us.

CABRERA: I do wonder, because you said, service, and providing good service is a priority to you.

But I imagine if you don't have the workers, you can't serve as many people because of the staff shortages. And then you wouldn't be making as much money, right? And now you're offering perks for employees.

So can you sustain your business at this rate or will you have to close restaurants?

HALPERN: No, those of us that are in the restaurant ecosystem, we're pretty diligent about, you know, staying alive. We've seen a lot of trends come and go. We'll certainly make it through this.

I think the interesting thing is, as people start to kind of start to come back out from the 12, 13 months of COVID-19, and want to get out and be entertained, it's an opportunity for a lot of restaurant people to actually make can.


And of course, it's harder to make money when we're short staffed.

So we're all doing the best we can. The people that are working in the restaurants are doing a great job. They're making a lot of overtime. And we're certainly more than willing to offer more hours.

But long, we need more people to back to work. We certainly hope our partners in Washington, D.C., will encourage a greater supply of workers for us in the future.

But I do think, in the short-run, restaurant restauranters to will react to the situation and do the best they can.

Long-term, certainly we know there's going to be a shortage of workers, and some of these things that you mentioned earlier, are going to become more prevalent in our operating businesses.

CABRERA: Daniel Halpern, best of luck to you. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

HALPERN: Thank you so much, Ana, for having me on.

CABRERA: And happy Friday.

Still to come, new and explosive developments in the investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz. What we're learning.



CABRERA: Since former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted 10 days ago, we have seen at least three more black Americans killed by police.

This weekend, in the Sunday premiere of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," W. Kamau Bell takes us to his home city of Oakland for an intensive look at police brutality in America and the toll it takes on communities of color.


W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: Is this moment different as far as like where we are in America and specifically around law enforcement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me it's this moment of being a black man in a police uniform, right.

BELL: Um-hum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there are some problems, some systemic problems that's been in policing a long time that you know needed to be rooted out.

So you sit in this place where you're like, do I fit in? Sometimes I even ask the question, do I fit in? I'm a black man before I put on a uniform.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm' one when I take it off. You know, I --


BELL: You're one while you've got it on.



CABRERA: W. Kamau Bell is with us now.

Kamau, I don't think anyone thought the problems would disappear after a single officer was convicted. But it's so striking and so disturbing to see these tragedies happen

again and again and again.

How do you see the Chauvin verdict? Will it be transformational in a way many people hope it is?

BELL: It's only transformational if we do the work to learn from the verdict. I think the lesson from the verdict is there's something wrong with policing in this country.

We know that because of all the black folks and Latino/Latinx folks that died at the hands of cops since the verdict.

Mario Gonzalez was out here in California and was drunk in a park apparently. The cops came and he ended up dead 15 minutes later.

It's only means something if we do something with the information. And our country tends to forget things. We think that happened that we should be changed by.

CABRERA: In your season premier tomorrow night, you dive into this very polarizing idea to defund the police. What exactly do activists mean or want when they talk about defunding the police?

BELL: We do dive into that. I know a lot of people are afraid of that. It's funny because all it is accounting term.

But as we talk about in the episode, I used to be nervous about it, too.

It means, instead of, for example, in Oakland, we spend about 50 percent of our city municipal funds on policing but only 4 percent to 5 percent of calls for police are for violent crimes.

So if they're going to handle the violent crimes -- which maybe that's OK -- we look at the other money and put it back into the community and into schools, into public safety.

Into the fact that if a guy is drunk in the park, you call a social worker or a driver to give them a ride home. But you don't summon someone a gun.

CABRERA: You've talk to a lot of police reform activists saying law enforcement is inherently racist, that it's been baked in from the beginning.

What do the foundations of policing mean for today's reform efforts?

BELL: Well, that -- I mean, yes it's not even -- this is all history. You can look at this.

The ways in which black people are policed in this country were based in the Barbados slave code, which tells you everything you need to know about black people and police.

It was about protecting white people, specifically white people with money from the black people. It was never about seeing us as a part of the public. And that's gone through the entire history of policing.

And the current commissioner in 1968, under the Lyndon Johnson administration, discovered white racism was responsible for what was wrong in the country and policing a part of that.

But it wasn't black anger. It was white racism making the country divided.

CABRERA: I'm glad to have you back in our lives, on our screens, week in and week out. You never shy away from the tough issues.

What else do you have coming up this season?

BELL: We have an episode about the black trans community in Dallas, Texas. We have an episode about economic equality in South Carolina. And we have an episode about veterans in San Diego and about what if means to support our troops.

CABRERA: W Kamau Bell, good to see you. Thank you for being here.

BELL: Thank you.

CABRERA: And thank you for joining me on this Friday. I'll see you back here Monday. In the meantime, join me on Twitter, @ana Cabrera.

NEWSROOM continues next with Alisyn and Victor.


Have a great weekend.