Only 42% of those surveyed by Quinnipiac say they approve of the job the Biden administration is doing helping schools return to in-person instruction, with 38% disapproving and one in five unsure or offering no opinion.
President Joe Biden stands on stage during a break in a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Biden pledged in December to reopen “the majority of our schools” by the end of his first 100 days in office. But he’s faced repeated questions over how he would achieve – and define – reaching that goal. The White House came under fire earlier this month when Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said schools that held in-person learning just one day a week would be considered open.
Biden said Tuesday night during a nationally televised prime time town hall in Wisconsin that those comments were “a mistake in the communication.”
On his school reopening goal, he emphasized that “we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days” for elementary and middle schools, but he said that due to a higher risk of COVID infection among older students, it would take longer for high schools to reopen.
Republicans have targeted the president and congressional Democrats the past couple of weeks, highlighting the tug of war over the reopening of schools. The issue has put the Biden administration and congressional Democrats in a difficult spot between the competing interests of some teachers unions in major cities, which oppose returning to classrooms without more protections, and parents who want to see their children back in schools.
Republicans are increasingly blaming Biden, congressional Democrats, and their school union allies for continued school closures. Biden for weeks promised that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would release guidelines to help schools open safely. But those much-anticipated guidelines, which were released on Friday, were more stringent than some expected, with full in-person classes being recommended only when community transmission levels of the coronavirus are quite low, which would cover few school districts.
According to the new poll, 47% of Americans say the reopening of schools in their community is happening at about the right pace, with 27% saying it’s not quick enough, and 18% saying schools are reopening too quickly.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted Feb. 11-14, with 1,056 adults in the U.S. questioned by live telephone operators. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.