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Trump Demands Schools Open in Fall, Cuomo Says It's Not Up to Him

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Trump Demands Schools Open in Fall, Cuomo Says It's Not Up to Him

2020-07-09 10:15:52

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Andrew Cuomo (Image source: Screenshot)


Too many people are still worried about the coronavirus. They aren't ready yet to face a return to life as usual with so many states still dealing with a surge in new cases. Despite all this, Donald Trump demanded that schools reopen in the fall. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, said it's not up to him.

Trump demanded on Tuesday that schools across the nation reopen physically in the fall after finishing the 2019-2020 school year virtually because of the pandemic. This is part of his drive to reopen the country, or rather force it to reopen.

Through conference calls and public events at the White House, Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and other officials leaned on governors, mayors, and other leaders to get students physically back in school in the fall.

The Trump administration made the case that the social, psychological, and educational costs of keeping kids at home longer would be worse than the possibility of the virus. Yet, they didn't offer any proposal of how to make it work or financial assistance to make sweeping changes that will allow children to social distance while in class.

"We're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open, " said Trump at the White House. "It's very important. It's very important for our country. It's very important for the well-being of the students and the parents. So we're going to be putting a lot of pressure on: open your schools in the fall."

Education is controlled locally, however, by states and district school boards. One of Trump's campaign promises in 2016 was against nationalizing education, yet now he's clearly trying to use his power to have it work his way. He did not go as far as to threaten to pull back federal funding on the public school system, however.

It wasn't just primary and secondary schools earning the president's contempt. He called out Harvard University for "closing for the season" in the fall. In reality, Harvard said mostly first-year students and some in special circumstances would be invited to attend classes on campus in the fall, then seniors would replace them in the spring.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Trump of this plan. "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."

DeVos launched into school administrations who have done "next to nothing" so far after initially closing because of the pandemic. During this conference call with governors, she also criticized certain districts "playing both paradigms," with plans to do some type of combination of online and in-person classes.

"A couple of hours a week of online school is not okay, and a choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all," she said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed this situation on Wednesday, saying the government doesn't have authority in this matter.

"School reopenings are a state decision. Period. That is the law, and that is the way we're going to proceed. It's not up to the President of the United States," said the governor at a news briefing in Albany. "The president does not have any authority to open schools. We will open the schools if it is safe to open the schools. Everybody wants the schools open."

Cuomo added that he would announce the state's decision in August whether to open schools after he thoroughly reviews public health data and reopening plans from local school districts.

Unlike Trump and DeVos, Cuomo has a plan, or at least is working on one. He has been discussing the situation with educations and others. The state hopes to finalize guidance by July 13 so that school districts can submit their plans for reopening by the end of the month. The state will then announce its decision in the first week of August.

"The test that I bring to all of these things — day camps, overnight camps — is my child test. I am not going to ask anyone to put their child in a situation that I would not put my child in, and that's how I make these decisions," said Cuomo. "If it's not safe for my child, it's not safe for your child. So we'll get that data, and we'll make that decision in August."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that the public schools in the city won't fully reopen in the fall.

"The district, which has 1.1 million students, will use a combination of in-person classes and remote learning," he said. The "vast majority" of students, in what is the largest school system in the country, will be attending classes in person two or three days each week.

Cuomo tied reopening schools with doing the same for the economy. "You can't really reopen the economy fully if you have the schools closed," he noted.

"The federal government has no legal authority when it comes to school openings. This is just a redux of what the president did on the economic reopening," he added.

The governor also called out Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona that are now seeing record single-day numbers in new cases after reopening quickly. 

"We now have a tale of two different kinds of states. Thirty-six states are seeing an increase in the COVID infection rate," noted Cuomo.

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