Democrats Rebuke White House Over Possibly Directing Virus Aid Away from Public Schools

July 9, 2020by Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the U.S. Department of Education July 8, 2020 in Washington, DC. Vice President Pence and the task force members discussed the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of nation's schools in the Fall. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s apparent proposal that future coronavirus aid for schools be tied to students, rather than school districts, has drawn rebukes from key Democrats.

“He wants to increase funding in CARES four for education, but he’s looking at potentially redirecting that to make sure it goes to the student, and it is most likely tied to the student and not to a district where schools are closed,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

“CARES four” refers to the expended next assistance package as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the country.

“He wants them to reopen altogether. He wants students to be welcomed back to these schools,” McEnany said.

The Trump administration has made no secret of wanting to pressure schools to be open for students this fall, but McEnany’s comments point to another potential objective.

“He thinks that funding should go to the child. It should be there for children who are going to school,” said the press secretary, who also criticized “teachers unions who want to keep these schools closed.”

The White House, the coronavirus task force, the Department of Education and the Office of Management and Budget did not offer specifics on how the funds might be tied to students, but no one reached by CQ Roll Call would rule out the idea of funds flowing to private and parochial schools.

Democrats, predictably, are not on board with any plan that could involve the Trump administration redirecting aid away from public school systems.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement that she would oppose any privatization efforts.

“Again, the Executive Branch seems to have forgotten who holds the power of the purse,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “Instead of threatening to strip funding from the children and families who need it the most, I and my fellow House Democrats are working hard to provide schools with the resources they need to safely reopen.”

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on both the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Education budget and the committee with authorizing power, stressed the importance of safety in getting children back to school.

“Democrats have a plan to give schools the resources they need to keep their campuses safe and to keep students learning, whether in-person or online, while the President is irresponsibly trying to bully schools into reopening no matter the risk,” Murray said.

“The thought of using students’ safety as a bargaining chip is truly appalling,” she said, “and I hope Senate Republicans don’t stoop to that level.”

McEnany cited concerns raised in an American Academy of Pediatrics report about the consequences of schools being physically closed, including limited reporting of cases of child abuse and neglect.

“Keeping schools closed down is an untenable prospect, and if this administration is going to stand for anything, it’s going to be standing against child abuse, which reporting falls when schools are closed,” McEnany said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made a similar point at a news briefing earlier Wednesday, which followed a task force meeting hosted by the Education Department.

“From HHS’s perspective, reopening schools safely may be the single most important thing that we can do to support healthy families during this pandemic. All decisions about undertaking activities during COVID-19 have to look at risk as a continuum, not a binary question,” Azar said. “States and school districts can think about the same things that we urge individuals to think about.”

Other Trump administration officials on the stage at the Education Department focused on economic challenges for workers whose children remain home from school.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, long an advocate for expanding school choice beyond traditional public schools, pointed in that direction during her remarks.

“What’s clear is that students and their families need more options. I’ve talked a long time about the need to rethink education and … to expand education options for all students,” DeVos said. “This moment really demands action, and America always was, and is, and always will be a country of doers.”

DeVos specifically criticized the school district in Fairfax County, Virginia, which she called “an elite public school system in America,” for announcing a proposal for limited in-person instruction this fall.

Vice President Mike Pence said at the same event that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would offer revised guidance on opening schools, after Trump took to Twitter to criticize what the CDC had already published.

McEnany also framed the president’s push for schools to open as promoting “educational equality.”

“This president fights for school choice, he fights for opportunity, and he’ll fight for schools to stay open,” McEnany said.

DeLauro said she was still waiting for a formal administration request to help schools.

“With weeks to go until the start of a new academic year, the Trump administration has yet to propose or request a single dollar to help our public schools reopen,” DeLauro said. “Instead, the administration and Secretary DeVos remain fixated on how it can siphon away resources for vouchers and other privatization schemes.”


©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Coronavirus Cases Among Children on the Rise as Schools Gear Up For Reopening
Coronavirus Cases Among Children on the Rise as Schools Gear Up For Reopening
August 11, 2020
by Gaspard Le Dem

New data shows that a growing number of children across the country are testing positive for the coronavirus as many schools prepare to resume in-person classes this fall. Over the last two weeks of July, the U.S. reported 97,078 new cases of COVID-19 among children, according... Read More

Educators Say US Needs Better Plan to Reopen Schools Safely in Pandemic
Educators Say US Needs Better Plan to Reopen Schools Safely in Pandemic
August 7, 2020
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON - House Democrats, at a congressional hearing Thursday on reopening public schools, accused President Donald Trump of mishandling the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. They said schools might not have been forced to close early in the Spring and resort to distance learning if... Read More

Districts Go Round and Round on School Bus Reopening Plans
Districts Go Round and Round on School Bus Reopening Plans

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — School districts nationwide puzzling over how to safely educate children during a pandemic have a more immediate challenge — getting 26 million bus-riding students there in the first place. Few challenges are proving to be more daunting than figuring out how to... Read More

How to Manage Anxiety Surrounding Back-to-School Transition
Mental Health
How to Manage Anxiety Surrounding Back-to-School Transition
August 6, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON - Even as students across the United States are beginning to head back to class, the reopening of schools remains a topic of intense debate. While no one can predict what is ahead for the Fall of 2020, there can be no doubt that COVID-19... Read More

Public Colleges Face Gut Punch from States’ COVID-19 Deficits
Public Colleges Face Gut Punch from States’ COVID-19 Deficits

America’s public colleges and universities are facing one of their toughest financial challenges ever as the economic collapse hammers state tax collections and tens of thousands of students opt to wait out the pandemic or study online. With the recession ravaging the finances of millions of... Read More

Most K-12 Parents Don’t Want Full-Time In-Person Classes This Fall
Most K-12 Parents Don’t Want Full-Time In-Person Classes This Fall
August 4, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

As schools across the country consider their learning options for the upcoming academic school year, a new Gallup poll says fewer parents favor full-time in-person instruction, suggesting a shift in parental preferences from late May.  At the end of the last school year in late May... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top