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US education secretary Betsy DeVos downplays risk of opening schools in the fall – The Boston Globe

“Parents are expecting that this fall their kids are going to have a full-time experience with their learning, and we need to follow through on that promise,” DeVos added.

DeVos’s comments come as U.S. education policy regarding the Covid-19 pandemic has moved to the forefront.

Trump and DeVos last week began to forcefully advocate that public elementary and high schools as well as universities reopen fully to students in the fall despite a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in many parts of the U.S., and suggested that funding could be be pulled from schools that don’t comply.

“If schools aren’t going to open they shouldn’t get the funds,” DeVos said on Fox. “Give it to the families.”

Separately, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” DeVos said there was “no desire to take money away,” but didn’t specifically remove the administration’s threat.

“The rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” DeVos said, adding that teachers who are at greater risk from coronavirus because of their age or underlying conditions should work it out with their local school districts.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control about how to safely reopen schools are “meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation,” DeVos said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appearing on CNN after DeVos, said the secretary’s comments added up to “malfeasance and dereliction of duty. They are messing with the health of our children.”

Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, said on “Fox News Sunday” that while it’s true that children are less at risk of serious Covid-19 infection than adults, the virus can still be dangerous. He cited a 5-year-old who died in South Carolina from the virus.

Additionally, the science surrounding how easily children spread the virus to adults is still murky, Inglesby said.

“There are going to be many challenges with opening schools safely, and just kind of asserting that schools must open safely doesn’t make it so,” Inglesby said.

He cited a large outbreak in schools in Israel after schools reopened. “It seems like that has been relatively uncommon, but there are examples,” he said.

DeVos’s appearances on Sunday continue an effort by the Trump administration to push local and state officials to reopen schools, part of a broader effort to return the economy to normal even as new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. hit record levels.

DeVos has cited the plans by Fairfax County, Virginia, to bring students back for either no days or two days a week as an example of “false paradigms” she said were being created.

Congressional Democrats say that Trump has no ability to defund schools which do not reopen five days a week, and instead urged the administration to approve funding to aid schools as part of a Covid-19 stimulus bill expected to come up for votes at the end of the month.

Senate Democrats have proposed a $430 billion infusion for schools and the Democrat-controlled House passed a bill in May with $100 billion.

They also say they’ll oppose any attempt to give Trump the power to use such future aid to pressure schools to reopen, including by giving students funding to allow them to attend private school instead.


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