During a televised town hall last night with CNN, President Joe Biden claimed that it was, “a mistake in communications,” for his Administration to say that their goal was to have more than 50% of schools open at least once a week after their first 100 days:
Joe Biden on Jen Psaki’s recent downgrading of the 100-day pledge on school reopenings: “There was a mistake in the communication.”
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) February 17, 2021
The problem with that assertion is not only did his Administration double-down on that goal after they initially spelled it out, but the White House has not demonstrated any serious effort to actually reopen schools. Instead, they have sided with the teachers unions out of political convenience, and the new guidance issued late last week puts nearly 90% of schools in “red zones,” despite the fact that data from the CDC has shown that schools can be reopened safely.
In another sign that they are not serious about actually reopening schools, Leader McCarthy’s office pointed out yesterday that more than two-thirds of the education money in Democrats’ massive stimulus bill won’t be spent until 2023 or later.
- The Washington Examiner (Editorial): “The lie at the center of Biden’s school funding proposal”
- Biden and other Democrats have repeatedly claimed that schools cannot reopen without an immediate fiscal shot to the arm in order to ensure student and teacher safety. This is not an unreasonable ask, and indeed, at first glance, the bill appears to deliver a huge dose of help. It would appropriate $128.6 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which Biden’s rescue plan demands in order “to support schools in safely reopening.” However, there is a catch. The bill would spend only $6.4 billion of that money in fiscal 2021 — less than 5% of the total…It is evident that 95% of the money being programmed for “reopening” is not going to be used for that purpose unless Biden doesn’t intend for schools to reopen until November or even next January. And the vast majority of the money still won’t be spent for another year after that. The “reopening” money in this bill is so heavily backloaded that $90 billion of it, nearly three-fourths, will, in fact, be spent between fiscal years 2023 and 2028. So either Biden is lying about the urgent need and is just using the taxpayer to pay a ransom to the teachers unions that are holding children’s education hostage, or he thinks the pandemic will have gone on for eight years.
We already know that Congress appropriated $68 billion in Covid relief for K-12 schools last year, and only a fraction of that has been spent. Still, multiple members of the Biden Administration have claimed that additional resources that are a part of Democrats’ bill are needed so schools can reopen, but the above report makes clear that this is an empty talking point since the bulk of the money for K-12 schools in their legislation won’t be spent for years.
As the White House demonstrates that they do not have a plan on this important issue, the media has predictably started to blame Republicans for criticizing the Administration’s lack of a response:
- Fox News: “New York Times, Politico slammed for ‘Republicans pounce’ framework on stories about reopening schools”
A widely-panned Politico story yesterday actually claimed that Republicans have made, “no commitment to meaningfully engage on policy proposals” to reopen schools, ignoring the fact that Democrats have repeatedly blocked efforts to pass legislation that would allow students to safely return to the classroom sooner:
- Fox News: “House blocks immediate consideration of GOP school reopening legislation”
The President may be trying to course-correct his Administration’s bungled messaging on reopening schools, but the policy is what matters. It’s critical for the White House to follow the science and take steps to allow students to safely return to the classroom.