Trump says he'll cut funding if US schools don't reopen in November, Angry Internet calls it 'act of genocide'
Trump continues to argue that state and local officials are keeping schools closed not because of the concerns for Covid-19 infections, but for political reasons
After claiming that Democrat's presumptive nominee Joe Biden doesn't want schools to reopen this fall for political reasons, President Donald Trump pushed for the opening of schools by November, on July 8. He criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has pressured the health organization to loosen its prevention guidelines, while also threatening to cut down on funding for schools around the nation that refuse to reopen for the new semester. He continues to argue that state and local officials are keeping schools closed not because of the concerns for Covid-19 infections, but for political reasons.
"They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed," Trump said at a White House discussion on schools' plans for the fall, according to the Associated Press. "No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools." The White House conference comprised health and education leaders from across the country, who said that schools and colleges are ready to safely open in November. In addition, they argued that the risks of keeping students at home counterbalanced any risks linked with the coronavirus pandemic, reasoning that children need access to the meal programs and the mental and behavioral health services provided in schools. "We want to reopen the schools," the President said. "Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It’s time to do it."
Some schools that obliged with Trump's demand, compromised on their plans and announced that they would bring back students for only a few days a week. The move was deemed unacceptable by Education Secretary Betsy DeVon, who on July 7 said, "It’s clear that our nation's schools must fully reopen and fully operate this school year. Anything short of that robs students, not to mention taxpayers, of their future."
Furthermore, she criticized the distance learning program organized by many schools, following the coronavirus outbreak which prompted them to hold online classes for spring. She expressed her disappointment in schools that "didn’t figure out how to serve students or who just gave up and didn’t try", and said the situation should not repeat itself this fall, urging governors to reopen schools. The same thing can’t happen again this fall, she said, urging governors to play a role in getting schools to reopen.
The CDC has been sending out mixed signals with regards to this issue saying that students should return to the classroom, while also noting that virtual classes pose the lowest risk to the spread of the virus. The CDC was already planning to amend existing guidelines and issue new ones for schools in the coming days, following the President's objection. Vice President Mike Pence pushed the CDC's efforts as he addressed reporters in a press conference on July 8 saying, "The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough. And that’s the reason next week the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools."
Speaking at Trump's event on July 7, however, CDC director Dr Robert Redfield said that it would be better for students to be in school than at home. He also added that Covid-19 cases tend to be mild in younger people and also said that the greater risk is transmission from children to more vulnerable demographics.
He said the CDC encourages all schools across the country to reopen with customized plans to reduce the spread of the virus, while also giving students access to school services. "It’s clear that the greater risk to our society is to have these schools close," Redfield said. "Nothing would cause me greater sadness than to see any school district or school use our guidance as a reason not to reopen." The CDC's recommendations include that students and teachers wear masks, spread out desks, dither schedules, eat meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria and add physical barriers between sinks in the bathroom.
Many school officials across the country said they could not fully reopen even while following the guidelines because their classrooms are too small to accommodate all students with the recommended social-distancing. The reopening orders also pertain to nation-wide colleges and universities. Harvard announced it would continue with online sessions for its fall courses, a plan which became the basis for Trump's attack. "I think it’s ridiculous, I think it’s an easy way out and I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves if you want to know the truth," the President said on July 7. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement also announced on July 6 that they would block international students from studying in the country and deport them if they were not attending in-person classroom sessions.
Trump's intensifying demands to reopen schools were met with backlash. Appalled social media users took to their platforms to express disappointment and anger against his calls that threaten the health and safety of students.
"Reminder that @realDonaldTrump thinks global warming is a hoax to make American manufacturing non-competitive, that Hillary Clinton founded ISIS, Obama was born in Kenya, Russia is our best ally, and that no children will die from coronavirus with #schoolsreopening," said multimedia journalist David Leavitt. "The b***h in chief wants to cut funding from schools that won't reopen due to c-virus... When schools are the ones that help made the Medical Equipment for the coronavirus. They was assisting with the frontliners. #schoolsreopening @politicalnative (sic)," added another Twitter user. "They won’t even protect us from school shooters what makes y’all think they’ll protect us from Covid," a third one, quipped.
"The people discussing whether to reopen schools are meeting via Zoom... that should say everything about this situation. #schoolsreopening," said one user, addressing the irony in the situation. "You’re telling me that young people are spreading the virus and you think it’s okay to put them TOGETHER on a college campus? #schoolsreopening," another user tweeted.
"Let me get this straight. Paul Manafort can't be in a secluded prison because Covid may kill him, but my kids have to go to a germ-filled school or else those schools are defunded," a user said referring to Manafort's early release from serving his seven-year prison sentence for fraud in fear of getting infected while incarcerated. "When Barron Trump goes to public school my kids will too. #schoolsreopening," the user added. "I refuse to risk my life to save the economy. #schoolsreopening," a user wrote. "In case it wasn't obvious, funding cuts are only going to really matter to schools that don't get enough funding from local property taxes. So, lower and lower-middle class areas. This is an act of genocide against the working class. #schoolsreopening," another concurred.