President Biden was accused Tuesday of backtracking on his school-reopening pledge after the White House said the plan was to have as few as 50% of schools open for in-person learning for as little as one day per week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing that Mr. Biden plans to have at least half of the nation’s schools return to in-person classroom instruction by the first 100 days of his presidency, meaning by April 30.
“His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools, so more than 50%, open by day 100 of his presidency, and that means some teaching in classrooms,” said Ms. Psaki. “So at least one day a week. Hopefully it’s more. And obviously it’s as much as is safe in each school and local district.”
Does that mean in-person learning? “Teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100. In-person teaching, yes,” Ms. Psaki said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said the White House plan fell far short of Mr. Biden’s repeated promise to reopen “most schools” in the first 100 days of his presidency.
“For weeks, the Biden Administration has danced around the important issue of reopening our schools, ignoring the science and refusing to side with parents and children over teachers unions,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement.
“Today, the Biden Administration once again demonstrated that they have no intention of fulfilling the President’s promise to students and families,” he said. “Having 50 percent of schools offering in-person instruction one day a week is not what millions of parents and students across the nation think of as schools reopening.”
He said that more than half of school districts have already offered “a fully in-person or hybrid option for all of the 2020-2021 school year,” meaning that Mr. Biden’s promise is superfluous.
White House: Our goal is to have 50 percent of schools open by April 30, 2021 — “at least one day per week” pic.twitter.com/7VNpG9i0Sx
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) February 9, 2021
“Instead, it is just more dancing around by the Biden Administration and setting a low bar — and it’s unacceptable,” Mr. Rubio said. “While the Biden Administration publicly underachieves, tens of millions of students are still at home. Our students deserve better. Our teachers deserve better. When it comes to reopening our schools, the Biden Administration needs to get its act together and follow the science, not set a low bar on our students’ future.”
Jenny Beth Martin, honorary chairman of Tea Party Patriots Action, said the Biden administration was delivering on 10% of its promises.
“President Biden himself said closed classrooms were a ‘national emergency,’” said Ms. Martin. “If that’s the case, the plan he is offering should be graded F-minus. It’s clear Biden is afraid of the teachers’ unions and won’t hold them to account.”
Teachers’ unions in major urban districts have resisted returning to in-person instruction, saying that more funding is needed to ensure that classrooms are properly ventilated, sanitized and socially distanced to protect instructors against the novel coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control is expected to issue Wednesday new guidelines on school reopenings.
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