On Friday, Trump tweeted, “Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning. Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!”
White House spokesperson Judd Deere, responding to the groups’ statement, said, “If unions and misguided local leaders are going to hold schools hostage, putting our children’s mental and social development in jeopardy, President Trump is not going to waste taxpayer dollars.”
Highlighting Disney World’s phased reopening, beginning Saturday, amid the coronavirus surge in Florida, his statement continued, “If Disney World can be open so can our schools and this Administration will work in partnership to provide the resources and guidance needed for higher education institutions as well as local school districts to do that.”
The administration agrees “the science is clear” that it’s “better and healthier” for kids to return to school this fall, Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill said in a statement.
“Schools that are willing to provide a full school year of learning and be fully operational have no risk of losing funding,” she said. “But should a school choose to neglect its responsibility to educate students, they should not receive taxpayer money for a job that’s not being done. Schools can and must reopen safely, and the federal government will provide the resources, flexibilities and guidance needed for local leaders to make that happen.”
Teachers unions, parents and other education leaders have said they need more funding to reopen safely and that Trump’s political priorities will put children and educators in harm’s way.
The Friday statement, led by the academy, says reopening schools in a way that maximizes safety, learning and the well-being of students and teachers “will clearly require substantial new investments in our schools and campuses.”
The groups called on Congress and the administration to provide the federal resources to ensure that “inadequate funding does not stand in the way of safely educating and caring for children in our schools.”
The groups stressed the importance of learning in a classroom, but said reopening should be pursued in a safe way and with public health experts, education leaders and parents at the center of decisions. Schools in areas with high levels of Covid-19 community spread, for example, “should not be compelled to reopen” against local experts’ judgment.
“Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics,” they said. “We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.”
Michael Stratford contributed to this report.