Trump administration officials are making lots of threats but offering no real solutions for opening schools safely.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made the rounds on cable news programs on Sunday to demand the full reopening of K-12 schools this fall. But she did it without providing any roadmap for how schools can do that safely with existing infrastructure.
In the interviews, DeVos would not ensure that students, teachers, and parents would be safe from the virus at schools, and she did not give a plan for schools to follow for a safe reopening.
"Kids have to get back to school," DeVos said in response to CNN's Dana Bash, who asked if DeVos could ensure safety of all school attendees, staff, and parents. "And we know there are going to be hot spots, and those need to be dealt with on a case by case basis. But the rules should be that kids go back to school this fall. They've been missing months of learning. Many of them are going to be so far behind it's difficult to catch up."
DeVos' reopen-at-all-cost demand is part of Trump's administration-wide effort to push for schools to fully reopen again in the fall, even if schools cannot meet the guidelines set forth by public health experts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's school reopening guidance calls for strict cleaning protocols, social distancing in classrooms and throughout school buildings, and even closures when coronavirus cases have been confirmed in a school building or where cases are spiking in the community at large.
Donald Trump criticized those guidelines as too "tough" and "expensive," and demanded they be amended.
Following Trump's statement, Vice President Mike Pence said at a news conference that the CDC would be amending the guidelines in order to make them less restrictive.
Yet the CDC declined to bow to the political pressure from top Trump administration officials and stuck to their guidelines that suggest strict measures to ensure school safety.
Without any specific plans or guidance from the White House, school systems across the country are working to make their own plans that adhere to public health recommendations.
But many school systems, which were already struggling financially before the COVID-19 pandemic, don't have the funding nor the space to meet those guidelines in a way that allows for every student to be back in school five days a week, according to multiple reports.
Major school systems in New York City and Fairfax County, Virginia, are announcing plans for hybrid schedules, where students are in class a few days a week, and remote learning for the rest of the time. Atlanta, Nashville, and Los Angeles announced they won't have any in-person instruction when the school year resumes this fall.
But DeVos and other Trump administration officials are panning those moves, saying anything less than a full reopening amounts to failure.
DeVos wouldn't say when asked by CNN if the administration will take funding away from schools that don't reopen, instead repeating her idea from last week that parents should get the federal funds to find schools for their kids if their public schools remain virtual.
It led Fox News' Chris Wallace to dress DeVos down, telling her she was using misleading comparisons to school reopenings in other countries that have gotten their coronavirus cases under control and saying DeVos has no authority to unilaterally take money away from schools.
"Under what authority are you and the president going to unilaterally cut off funding, funding that's been approved from Congress and most of the money goes to disadvantaged students or students with disabilities?" Wallace fired back at DeVos.
It's not clear why the Trump administration is hell-bent on forcing kids back to school when public health cannot be guaranteed.
The American Association of Pediatrics said schools should only reopen if they can do so safely, urging the White House at a July 7 event to "ensure that schools receive the resources necessary so that funding does not stand in the way of keeping our children safe or present at school."
Public polling shows parents are wary about sending their kids back.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll from June 24 found that 54% of American voters are either somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with in-person school resuming this fall.
Published with permission of The America Independent Foundation.