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Trump to America’s schools: Reopen or may lose federal funds

The Associated Press

Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. He complained that his own public health officials’ safety guidelines are impractical and too expensive.

Shortly afterward, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be issuing new guidance next week “that will give all new tools to our schools.” The recommendations will keep students safe, he said, but “the president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough. “

Despite Trump’s increased pressure on state and local officials, New York City announced that most of its students would return to classrooms only two or three days a week and would learn online in between. “Most schools will not be able to have all their kids in school at the same time,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

For a nation that prides itself on its public school system, it’s an extraordinary situation in this pandemic year.

With millions of the nation’s parents anxious about their children’s safety in the fall — and their own work interruptions if they must stay home — Trump continued to inject politics into public health. He accused Democrats yet again of wanting to keep schools closed for election-year reasons rather than health concerns. And he issued a veiled threat to CDC officials over their reopening guidelines, tweeting, “I will be meeting with them!!!”

Elsewhere in the nation, many states continued to confront a resurgence of the the virus, which has claimed more than 130,000 lives in the U.S.. But safety obstacles in schools can be surmounted, Trump insisted, and reopening “is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”

He did not say what funding he would pull, but Pence suggested at a coronavirus task force briefing that future COVID-19 relief bills could be tied to reopening schools as one way “to give states a strong incentive and encouragement to get kids back in school.”

On Twitter, Trump argued that countries including Germany, Denmark and Norway have reopened schools “with no problems.”

Germany did begin to reopen its schools in May, but in many cases students are taking turns going to school and studying at home for half the week — just the thing that administration officials have criticized. Germany authorities are aiming for classes to resume in close to normal fashion after the summer vacation.

Trump’s Twitter warnings drew backlash from some governors who said he has no authority over schools’ fall plans. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said officials will reopen when it’s safe to do so.

“School reopenings are a state decision, period,” he said at a news conference. “That is the law, and that is the way we are going to proceed. It’s not up to the president of the United States.”

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