Will schools open or not? That is the question that most states are grappling with as the fall approaches. Some schools have already announced they would fully open. Others are going with a hybrid in-person/e-school option. The Trump administration would prefer the former and have threatened to incentivize schools by hitting them in their wallets.
Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has made it clear to the nation’s governors that she expects schools to be “fully operational” via conference call.
“School[s] must reopen, they must be fully operational. And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.”
President Trump echoed these sentiments and took it a step further by alleging that democrats have political reasons for wanting to keep schools closed. He cited other countries that have opened schools with “no problems” in his argument.
In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2020
Critics point out that the countries cited have had significantly fewer recent COVID-19 cases than the United States.
The CDC has released guidelines for reopening schools. They call for a much more cautious and nuanced approach to reopening schools. President Trump stated on Twitter that he disagreed with those guidelines.
DeVos acknowledged on Fox News that the Department of Education is “seriously considering” withholding funding from schools or districts that refuse to reopen.
It is debatable how feasible the threat to seriously cut funding actually is. Most funding for schools comes via state and local governments. There are federal education funds as well. But some also question exactly how funding could be cut and if the President even has the ability to do so.
Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that “Trump has no legal authority” to follow through on such a threat.
Sasha Pudelski, Advocacy Director of The School Superintendents Association, claims such an action would need approval.
To be clear: there is no mechanism by which they can decide to magically withhold funding without Congressional authorization. https://t.co/dZdTxwIrHM— Sasha Pudelski AASA (@SPudelski) July 8, 2020
After coronavirus struck, it became apparent that how quickly the country reopened would become a partisan issue. As a country cannot fully reopen with the kids stuck at home, the argument has trickled down to the schools.