Home US Trump's campaign to open schools provokes mounting backlash even from GOP

Trump's campaign to open schools provokes mounting backlash even from GOP

“Having schools come back to a more traditional model, a sense of normalcy, is going to reduce the panic and allow Montanans to function and allow Montana families to be able to supply an income for our children and for our children’s future,” she said. “I’m all in.”

White House officials defended the Trump administration’s threats to school funding. “If Disney World can be open so can our schools,” spokesperson Judd Deere said, referring to Disney’s upcoming phased opening.

As the administration continues to push its viewpoint, DeVos will be deployed for interviews Sunday on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.”

And the Trump administration is planning to continue its reopening offensive into next week. Pence plans to travel to Louisiana State University on Tuesday to discuss “fall reopening plans and university sports programs” with education leaders and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, his office said.

Schools that provide “a full school year of learning” and that are “fully operational” aren’t at risk of losing funding, said Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill in a statement. “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.”

Congressional Democrats say the administration doesn’t have the authority to yank schools’ funding. And the Education Department has not given any public indication that it’s actually planning to make good on Trump’s threat with a plan to withholding existing funding.

But Trump’s criticism of schools went beyond a funding threat this week. He also targeted the online learning that many schools and colleges are planning to rely on this fall.

In Oklahoma, Hofmeister said “it’s perplexing” why the Trump administration would be so critical of virtual learning as an option — especially since much of the emergency relief funding passed earlier this spring was about helping schools transition to virtual instruction.

Indeed, as DeVos distributed the money, she recommended that school leaders use the funding for things like technology and training “that will help all students continue to learn through some form of remote learning.”

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Hofmeister said that she had twice spoken to DeVos during the pandemic and had discussed the state’s investment in online tools to develop individualized learning. “That was applauded,” she said of her conversation with DeVos.

Higher education also has also been roiled over the past week by the Trump administration’s effort to oust international students from U.S. campuses unless colleges agree to physically hold classes this fall.

The proposed policy — which a top official said is meant to prod campuses to reopen — marks an abrupt reversal for the Trump administration, which set out different standards just a few months ago during the pandemic’s springtime peak.

Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli told CNN the new rules for international students would encourage schools to reopen.

“Anything short of 100 percent online is the direction that we’re headed,” Cuccinelli said. “This is now setting the rules for one semester, which we’ll finalize later this month that will, again, encourage schools to reopen.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted the plan as “ill-conceived” and harmful to businesses. On Friday, a coalition of Christian groups, including the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Evangelicals and Bethany Christian Services, said that international students shouldn’t be expelled from U.S. campuses during the pandemic.

“We believe the proposed temporary student visa rule violates tenets of our faith to ‘not mistreat the foreigner’ (Lev. 19:33) but to love these neighbors as ourselves (Lev. 19:34, Matt. 22:39),” the group led by the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship wrote in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security.

Harvard and MIT sued this week to halt the policy from taking effect, and a federal judge could determine if that occurs as early as Tuesday. Johns Hopkins University and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra have filed separate suits.

Taking one more punch at higher education, Trump tweeted Friday that he instructed the Treasury Department to review the tax-exempt status of U.S. schools, colleges and universities.

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“Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education,” Trump tweeted.

“Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status…… and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!”

The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The administration says returning to school is in the best interest of kids’ social and emotional development but also economic revival, considered essential to Trump’s reelection prospects in November.

Trump needs support from women and suburban voters in his reelection bid against Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, spoke on Fox News Friday about the bind that parents are in as they try to balance work and kids at home.

“You talk to a single working mom, she’s got to send her kid to school, the kids at home, she can’t go to work, she may not be able to afford help,” he said. “It’s also true with working folks who are two-person families and I think that’s an important part of this.”

But 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. “Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics,” said Friday’s statement from the pediatricians, teachers unions and superintendents.

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