UPDATED: Trump Threatens to Cut Federal Aid if Schools Don’t Reopen

‘They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed…’

Trump Pushes State, Local Leaders to Reopen Schools in Fall

Donald Trump/AP Photo

UPDATE: President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal money if schools don’t reopen in the fall, and he lashed out at federal health officials over school reopening guidelines that he says are impractical and expensive.

Taking to Twitter to voice his frustration, Trump argued that countries including Germany, Denmark and Norway have reopened schools “with no problems.” He also repeated his claim that Democrats want to keep schools closed for political reasons, not because of any risks associated with the coronavirus.

“The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election,” Trump said, “but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”

He did not immediately say what funding he would cut off or under what authority he had to make the move.

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Trump made the comments a day after launching an all-out effort pressing state and local officials to reopen the nation’s schools and colleges this fall. At a White House event on Tuesday, health and education officials argued that keeping students out of school for the fall semester would pose greater health risks than any tied to the coronavirus.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: (Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump launched an all-out effort pressing state and local officials to reopen schools this fall, arguing that some are keeping schools closed not because of the risks from the coronavirus pandemic but for political reasons.

“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” Trump said Tuesday at a White House discussion on school plans for the fall. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

The White House’s roundtable gathered health and education leaders from across the nation who said schools and colleges are ready to open this fall and can do so safely. They argued that the risks of keeping students at home outweigh any risks tied to the coronavirus, saying students need access to meal programs and mental and behavioral health services.

“We want to reopen the schools,” Trump said. “Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It’s time to do it.”

But that bright outlook was met with skepticism by some beyond the White House. The president of the nation’s largest education union said Trump is more interested in scoring points for the November election than in keeping students safe.

“Trump has proven to be incapable of grasping that people are dying — that more than 130,000 Americans have already died,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms and on college campuses with our students, but we must do it in a way that keeps students, educators and communities safe.”

Few victims of coronavirus have been children. The vast majority have been those who are elderly or have other medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus.

At the White House event, Trump repeated his claim that Democrats want to keep schools closed for political reasons and not health reasons. The Republican president made the same claim on Twitter a day before, saying: “They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”

Jennifer Nuzzo, of Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative, said she was “deeply troubled” by the claim.

“When you make it about politics and just people trying to score points and get elected, I mean, I really think it’s a disservice to how incredibly important this issue is,” Nuzzo said in an interview. “And it really distracts from what I think we need, which is real solutions and a plan in order to make this happen.”

Whether schools and colleges should open this fall and how has been a topic of growing debate as the coronavirus continues to surge in parts of the United States. Trump applauded Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his state’s recent order to open public schools this fall. And Trump attacked Harvard University for its decision to hold instruction online for the fall term.

“I think it’s ridiculous, I think it’s an easy way out and I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent mixed signals on the issue, saying students should return to the classroom but also noting that virtual classes present the lowest risk of COVID-19 spread. Speaking at Trump’s event, however, the agency’s director said unequivocally that it’s better for students to be in school than at home.

Dr. Robert Redfield noted that COVID-19 cases tend to be mild in young people, adding that the greatest risk is transmission from children to more vulnerable populations. He said the CDC encourages all schools to reopen with customized plans to minimize the spread of the coronavirus while giving students access to school services.

“It’s clear that the greater risk to our society is to have these schools close,” Redfield said. “Nothing would cause me greater sadness than to see any school district or school use our guidance as a reason not to reopen.”

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.