President Trump on Wednesday openly disagreed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “impractical” guidelines for reopening schools, and also threatened to cut off schools’ funding if they don’t start in-person classes in the fall.
“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon that some are creating a “false paradigms” for reopenings in the fall, but that the steps and safety measures implemented need to be made on a local level.
“Ultimately it’s not a matter of if schools should reopen,” she said. “It’s simply a matter of how they must fully open, and they must be fully operational and how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.”
Mrs. DeVos went on to explain that, according to pediatrics guidance, schools should set the goal of having students physically present in classrooms for a full school year or their mental health.
“It’s expected it will look different depending on where you are,” she said. “What’s clear is that students and their families need more options. I’ve talked a long time about the need to rethink education, and they want to expand education options for all students.”
During a White House event on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield listed several basic safety recommendations for schools to safely reopen. They include reconfiguring classrooms to keep students at least six feet apart, upgrading ventilation systems and closing common areas.
At the same event, the president, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other officials advised that partial reopenings would not be acceptable.
“We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s very important. It’s very important for our country. It’s very important for the well-being of the student and the parents. So we’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on: Open your schools in the fall.”
On Twitter on Wednesday, Mr. Trump warned that he might withhold federal funding from schools that don’t reopen fully and quickly.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants to boost funds for schools in the next coronavirus package.
The nation’s largest teachers’ union said the administration lacks a credible plan to reopen schools.
“If Donald Trump and [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos have proven anything over the past four years, it’s that they do not care about students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “They have zero credibility for how to best support students, and how to re-open classrooms safely.”
There’s been a surge in coronavirus cases across the country since state and local governments began reopening their economies, with several states reporting record high cases or hospitalizations.
New York, which has recently seen a decrease in the number of new cases, is considering opening its schools but hasn’t made any firm decisions, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week.
Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States has surpassed the 3 million mark for coronavirus cases, among its 300 million population.