The American Academy of Pediatrics joined teachers unions on Friday in calling threats from President Trump to withhold federal funding for schools that don’t full reopen this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic a “misguided approach,” warning it would “threaten the health” of students and teachers.
President Trump this week threatened to cut federal funding for schools that plan to remain closed or keep students home for remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The AAP, the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and the School Superintendents Association on Friday issued a lengthy statement, seemingly in response to the president’s threats, urging Congress and the Trump administration to maintain federal funding for schools across the country.
“Reopening schools in a way that maximizes safety, learning, and the well-being of children, teachers and staff will clearly require substantial new investments in our schools and campuses,” the organizations wrote. “We call on Congress and the administration to provide the federal resources needed to ensure that inadequate funding does not stand in the way of safely educating and caring for our children in our schools.”
They added: “Withholding funding from schools that do not open in person full-time would be a misguided approach, putting already financially strapped schools in an impossible position that would threaten the health of students and teachers.”
The organizations went on to note that “educators and pediatricians share the goal of children returning safely to school this fall,” but urged “science and community circumstances” to “guide decision-making.”
“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff,” the organizations stated. “Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools.”
The organizations added that “public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics.”
“We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it,” they added.
The statement comes as Trump has been pushing for schools to reopen in the fall, repeatedly noting the AAP’s warnings on the mental and intellectual consequences of distance learning. The AAP had advised “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
The AAP was also represented at the president’s school reopening event at the White House earlier this week, and had been urging officials to let students be physically present in the classroom.
The AAP and the teachers unions, however, did stress the importance of in-person learning, while noting that many services offered by schools “cannot be easily replicated online.”
The president has been railing against virtual learning, as states across the nation have begun rolling out proposals for reopening, which include a blended schedule, inviting students to the classroom for two or three days a week, and learning on a remote basis for the remainder of the week.
Friday morning, Trump blasted virtual learning as “terrible,” and again threatened to cut funding for schools that don’t fully reopen in the fall due to surges in positive cases of the novel coronavirus in states across the country.
The president this week also vowed to put “pressure” on governors to ensure that schools reopen.
“We don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons, they think it’s gonna be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed, no way,” Trump said. “So, we are very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”
“Our country has got to get back, and it’s got to get back as soon as possible, and I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed,” the president added. “Everybody wants it, the moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it.”
As for virtual learning, some states and cities, like New York City, have begun rolling out their back-to-school proposals for the 2020-2021 school year, which would include “blended” learning. Should the plan be approved for New York City, students will be in the classroom no more than three days a week for in-person learning, and would be at home for the remainder of the week for remote learning.