A top Biden advisor confirmed to CBS’s Face the Nation that the administration is committed to getting schools reopened on an April timeline even though the UK is now shutting down schools again due to a more infectious variant of the coronavirus.
“Well, yes,” Cedric Richmond responded to a question about reopening. “We’re going to keep pushing, and getting vaccines to the states.”
“We want to make it safe for students, teachers, and families of students and teachers,” he continued, and pointed to Biden’s coronavirus relief package for funding schools need to cover reopening costs like protective gear and extra cleaning.
Biden will meet with Republicans on Monday to discuss COVID relief after a group released its own, slimmed-down bill on Friday. Biden’s bill has a price tag of $1.9 trillion, while the Republican alternative has a cost of $618 billion.
Teachers’ unions reluctant to reopen
It was not immediately clear that the Republican plan would provide any school funding, which could be a dealbreaker for Biden.
The new president has been encountering resistance to his school reopening plans from big city teachers unions, who claim it’s not safe for students to return to in-person instruction.
Studies have shown that virus spread in schools is generally low when safety precautions are taken and community spread is fairly low, especially for K-8th grade students.
In addition, students in the big-city districts, who tend to be low income and minority, have been falling further behind academically because fewer have access to internet and devices on which to do their lessons.
Around half of school-age children in the U.S. are currently learning virtually or on a hybrid model, the Associated Press reported.
Some cities becoming insistent
A few big cities have already decided to reopen. New York City schools are now open for K-8 students and Mayor Bill de Blasio says high school students are expected to return before the end of the school year.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago just put her foot down and told teachers there that they had to report for in person instruction on Monday or face discipline. The teachers union there is opposed to reopening in person, and is considering a strike until their safety conditions are met.
These big-city mayors recognize that anything other than in-person instruction hurts school children academically, socially and psychologically, and they are finally willing to do something about it. In this case, Democrats and Biden are right, and schools should reopen as soon as possible to prevent further losses.