Trump: Reopen Schools or Lose Funding
As the coronavirus reshapes many aspects of life, it has come time for schools to contemplate when and how to safely reopen for the fall semester. President Donald Trump strongly feels schools should reopen or lose funding from Washington, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Blaming Democrats and CDC
The president targeted Democrats and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which created reopening guidelines, in a Twitter rant on the subject.
“I disagree with [the CDC] on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump tweeted.
Trump also politicized the issue by portraying the Democrats as using school closures for political gain.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” Trump tweeted. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”
Statistically, the European nations listed by Trump are far safer in terms of COVID-19, however. Germany, with roughly one-quarter of America’s population, has only 9,111 deaths compared to 134,420 in the US, according to data compiled by Worldometer. It’s number of cases is also far lower than America’s with less than one-fifteenth.
In Sweden, total deaths due to the virus are 5,482 while the number of cases is just shy of 74,000. Denmark and Norway rank 66th and 70th, respectively, among nations enduring the pandemic—a far better ranking than the US, which is number one.
Trump’s portrayal of the Democrats as decision makers for stopping schools from reopening came as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo denounced the president’s authority to force the issue.
“School reopenings are a state decision, period,” the Democratic governor said. “That is the law, and that is the way we are going to proceed. It’s not up to the president of the United States.”
As a result of pushback from state governors and local officials, Trump suggested they reopen schools or lose funding for institutions that opt to remain closed. Furthermore, the president criticized health officials for what he called “impractical” guidelines.
During a COVID-19 update at the Department of Education, Vice President Mike Pence informed department officials the CDC would will be issuing new recommendations for schools to follow, Reuters reported.
“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said. “It’s time for us to get our kids back to school.”
The vice president did concede that most school funding comes from the local and state level, not Washington, however. In light of that admission, he said the administration will coordinate with Congress to provide “a strong incentive and encouragement” to reopen in the autumn.
CDC Director Robert Redfield said that the agency creates guidelines, but does not mandate a strict adherence to them.
“It would be personally very disappointing to me, and I know my agency, if we saw that individuals were using these guidelines as a rationale for not reopening our schools,” Redfield said.
Some of those guidelines include social distancing and partitions when necessary in addition to eating lunch in classrooms instead of cafeterias, Reuters reported.
No Substitute for In-Person Education
Trump and Pence have the backing of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos who said “We should plan and prepare that our children WILL be back in school this fall,” The White House tweeted.
Some school districts, such as Virginia-based Fairfax County Public Schools, are preparing for limited reopenings whereby students attend for only two days per week alongside remote learning plans. Others are on course to operate entirely via distance learning. DeVos told governors these ideas are unacceptable, The Associated Press reported.
“A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all,” she said.
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García responded to the administration’s aggressive plan by calling it a political ploy ahead of the general election.
“Trump has proven to be incapable of grasping that people are dying — that more than 130,000 Americans have already died,” García said. Schools prefer to open as usual, she said, but they must do so safely.
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