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Trump Threatens to Withhold Federal Funding from Schools That Refuse to Reopen

President Donald Trump takes questions during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President Trump doubled down Wednesday on his exhortation to states that they reopen schools in the fall and threatened to cut federal funding to schools that refuse to do so over coronavirus concerns.

“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” Trump wrote in a tweet, adding that Democrats “think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”

The president also criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “very tough & expensive guidelines” for opening schools, saying he disagrees with the rules.

“While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump wrote.

At the White House on Tuesday, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield outlined some of the agency’s recommendations for schools that reopen, including disinfecting surfaces, spacing desks six feet apart, establishing “one-way routes,” and closing communal spaces.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday appeared in lockstep with Trump on reopening schools next semester, saying that the government is “very seriously” looking at pulling federal funding from schools that keep their doors closed.

“Kids have got to continue learning and schools have got to open up,” DeVos said on Fox News. “There’s got to be a concerted effort to address the needs of all kids, and adults who are fear-mongering and making excuses simply have to stop doing it and turn their attention to what is right for students and for their families.”

She added on Twitter that schools must “get creative about how to deliver a full school year of learning.”

Earlier this week, Trump promised to “put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

Schools across the country transitioned to online learning in mid-March, and some districts have said they will adopt a partially remote model for students in the fall. In New York City, the city’s 1.1 million students will attend in-person classes two or three times a week and take classes online on the other school days, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Florida governor Ron DeSantis will require all K-12 schools to reopen in August despite a spike in coronavirus cases in the state.

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