Trump says he will cut federal aid if schools don’t open (Reports).
Federal aid for US schools could end up being cut if they refuse to fully reopen, as President Donald Trump ramps up pressure to get students back into the classroom during the global pandemic.
It is part of his push for states to reopen to boost America’s economy after months of coronavirus shutdowns.
As debate raged about how to do this safely, Trump on Wednesday, local time, tweeted: “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!”
In the US, the bulk of school funding comes from state and local governments, however, the federal education department can withhold emergency relief funding – money that is often used by districts to assist the most vulnerable students.
But some states and cities are developing their own rules. In the coronavirus hotspot of Texas, parents will be able to choose whether to send their children to school, while New York, which has managed to flatten the curve of cases, has opted for a “blended learning” system. This would include a mix of in-person and remote learning, and classes capped to a maximum of 12 students.
While Trump was threatening schools, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sought a temporary injunction to stop the administration from enforcing new visa guidelines that could cast international students out of the country if schools offer only online classes.
“It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others” amid the coronavirus pandemic, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency issued the new visa rules for universities on Monday, barring visas for applicants studying at colleges offering only virtual instruction.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany condemned the lawsuit, saying the policy was consistent with visas not being offered to overseas students studying online at other American universities.
The President’s threat came moments before the White House coronavirus taskforce held a briefing with Vice-President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx. However, notably absent was the President himself, along with the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci.
Fauci had earlier noted that the emphasis on coronavirus death rates – often cited by Trump – was a “false narrative” because “there’s so many other things that are very dangerous and very bad about this virus”.
“Don’t get yourself into false complacency,” he said earlier this week.
During the briefing, Pence acknowledged that more than 131,000 Americans had died from COVID-19, and more than 3 million had tested positive. But more than 39 million people had been tested overall, the Vice-President said, “and we are encouraged that the average fatality rate continues to be low and steady”.
Asked, however, if the White House was putting children at risk by pushing for face-to-face teaching to resume, Pence said that “apart from having an underlying health condition, children do not appear to be susceptible to this virus”. Therefore, the risk was “very low”, he said.
Guidelines from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention include using cloth face coverings, staying home when appropriate, modifying seating to allow social distancing of at least 1.8 metres and shutting communal spaces. The CDC is expected to release new guidelines next week, after many schools said they would struggle to keep children apart.