Republicans have attacked the White House over its school reopening policy, claiming the administration is listening more to the teachers unions than science.
‘It’s clear the Biden Administration’s policy is “follow the teachers unions”—not “follow the science,”‘ wrote Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, a member of House GOP leadership, on twitter.
Teacher unions want vaccinations for educators before classes resume in person while the administration said that is a ‘priority’ and not a requirement. Scalise was one of the Republican House members who introduced the Reopen Schools Act last month.
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis also attacked Democrats for ‘putting politics and special interests ahead of what the evidence and observed experience says.’
He also claimed the administration was listening to the teachers’ unions instead of the science, saying the White House is ‘putting politics ahead of what’s right for kids.’
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain took to Twitter to fire back.
‘Schools closed under President Trump, and they will reopen under President Biden,’ he wrote.
And White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the Republicans’ criticism when asked about at her press briefing on Thursday.
‘Kids are not Democrats or Republicans,’ she said.
‘The president wants schools to open, five days a week. He wants kids to be in school. Teachers want kids to be in school, and he also believes that teachers should be prioritized,’ she said.
Republicans have attacked the White House over its school reopening policy with Republican Rep. Steve Scalise and Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis slamming Biden administration
White House chief of staff Ron Klain fired back at Republican critics
The Republican attacks comes as the White House deepened the confusion on the school reopening process Wednesday with statements that vaccination for teachers are a ‘priority’ but not required.
The final decision, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, is up to the states.
‘Neither the president nor the vice president believe it is a requirement,’ Psaki said of teacher immunizations ahead of school reopenings.
‘At the same time, the president and vice president also believe that teachers should be prioritized,’ Psaki continued. ‘That’s up to states to determine.’
Psaki faced repeated questions on the administration’s policy on school openings as the White House has been asked to clarify its standing on the issue after neither President Joe Biden nor Vice President Kamala Harris would give a direct response when asked about teacher vaccinations.
The subject has become a national debate as kids continue to hold classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic, school districts look to resume in-person classes and teachers express concern about their safety.
As the administration pushes for schools to resume in person, teachers’ unions have demanded access to vaccines before returning to the classroom. And the Education Department is in want of a leader during this as Biden’s nominee for education secretary, Miguel Cardona, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
The White House deepened the confusion on the school reopening process by saying teachers don’t need to be vaccinated in order for in-person classes to return but then called the issue a ‘priority.’
White House Press secretary Jen Psaki said teachers don’t need to be vaccinated in order for in-person classes to return but then called the issue a ‘priority’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled out its long awaited guidance on school reopenings last week, recommending universal mask usage and social distancing but not vaccination.
The CDC also called vaccination for teachers a ‘priority’ but not a requirement.
But neither President Biden, during his CNN town hall Tuesday night, nor Harris on NBC’s ‘Today Show’ on Wednesday morning, would say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that teachers must be vaccinated before schools reopen.
‘It’s about needing to be able to socially distance, smaller classes, more protection, and I think the teachers and the folks who work in the school, the cafeteria workers and others should be on the list of preferred to get a vaccination,’ Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
‘Teachers should be a priority,’ Harris said repeatedly in her interview – and came under fire from anchor Savannah Guthrie as she evaded the question.
Guthrie asked Harris: ‘Can you reassure teachers listening right now that it is safe to go back to school even if they are not vaccinated if these public health measures, like distancing and masks, are being implemented?
‘Teachers should be a priority along with other front line workers and we’re going to make them a priority,’ Harris said in reference to many states keeping teachers lower on the vaccination priority order than front line workers like medical employees, firefighters and law enforcement.
‘But if they’re not vaccinated, is it safe for them?’ Guthrie pushed.
‘Well, I think that we have to decide if we can put in place safe measures,’ Harris said, then deflected to talking about the $1.9 trillion America Rescue Plan.
Harris eventually appeared to concede that regardless of whether teachers are vaccinated or not, they should return to the classroom so schools can reopen.
In contrast, on CBS This Morning, Biden’s chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said directly that getting every teacher vaccinated within the timeline of wanting to reopen schools is ‘non-workable.’
Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday that ‘teachers should be a priority’ in getting the coronavirus vaccine, but said regardless of whether they are vaccinated, schools should reopen
Harris was on TV to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which she claims would help get schools back open, while also addressing the issues of 2.5 million women put out of work by the pandemic, which she claims is a ‘national emergency’ in itself
‘I think if you are going to say that every single teacher needs to be vaccinated before you get back to school, I believe quite frankly…that that’s a non-workable situation,’ the nation’s top infectious disease expert and member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board told CBS News on Wednesday.
‘I think teachers should absolutely be priority among those who we consider essential personnel, and you should try and get as many teachers as you possibly can vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can,’ he continued.
But Harris said the $1.9 trillion relief package being worked out in Congress right now would help reopen schools.
‘It’s going to be safer for our schools to reopen when we can get our schools the infrastructure needs like helping them with their ventilation systems, helping them create social distancing with barriers – the things that are necessary to get them opened in a safe way,’ she said in making the argument for the passage of the latest COVID-19 bill.
‘I don’t want to beat it to death,’ Guthrie cut off Harris, ‘but I know that there are teachers listening and the CDC has said they don’t need to be vaccinated to go back to school –’
Harris cut in with a terse: ‘We think they should be a priority.’
‘I believe they should be a priority, the president believes they should be a priority,’ she said.
Harris said the nearly $2 trillion bailout plan would also address the issues of 2.5 million women put out of work by the pandemic, which she claims is a ‘national emergency’ in itself.
‘This is a big problem, I mean the issue of 2.5 million women out of the workforce is a national emergency as far as I’m concerned. So a national emergency – a big problem – requires a bit solution,’ Harris told NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie.
Many of these women were put out of work by school closures, as some had to ease up on their careers to take over the at-home and virtual education of their children in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The vice president remained on-message during her live interview with Guthrie, keeping her focus on the latest bailout bill and reassuring teachers they should go back to school.
Harris dodged several other questions thrown her way in the Wednesday morning interview, including refusing to weigh in as a former prosecutor on whether Donald Trump could face criminal prosecution for his actions related to the January 6 Capitol attack.
‘You know, right now I’m focused on what we need to do to get relief to American families and that is my highest priority, it’s our administration’s highest priority,’ Harris said when asked about the current rift in the Republican Party.
That didn’t stop Guthrie from pushing the issue to get Harris to deviate from her talking points.
Harris didn’t budge, responding: ‘I haven’t reviewed the case through the lens of a prosecutor, I’m reviewing the case of COVID in America through the lens of being the Vice President of America.’
Biden’s vice president reiterated that the administration’s goal is to get as many kindergarten through 8th grade students back to in-person learning within the first 100 days of his administration.
‘Our goal is that it would be five days a week,’ Harris continued as other comments have suggested it would only be one-day-per-week in-person classes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not made it a requirement for teachers to get vaccinated before they return to the classroom.
Some teachers remain hesitant to return to teaching their students in-person if they do not first receive either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19.
States have introduced tier programs for vaccination distribution that lists priorities for who can get the shot at what point in time. At the top of every state’s list is front line and healthcare workers.
Beyond that, the priority list varies from state to state.
Biden’s administration maintains his goal of getting 100 million vaccines in the arms of Americans in his first 100 days is on track for success.
The president and vice president will meet with labor leaders Wednesday to discuss the American Rescue Plan, which is continuously expanding and could require Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the Senate to pass.
Biden said during his televised town hall on Wednesday that he believes the country will be close ‘at the end of the first 100 days’ to getting half the country’s younger kids back in school.
President Joe Biden said his administration’s goal is to get kindergarteners through eighth graders back in school five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office – opposed to his press secretary suggesting it could only be one-day of in-person classes each week
He said the goal was five days a week – opposed to ‘a mistake in the communication’ earlier that caused rumors to swirl the administration was only working toward one-day-per-week in-person schooling.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki seemed to dramatically scale back the administration’s goal of reopening half of U.S. schools by the end of the president’s first 100 days. She suggested open could mean only one day a week.
‘His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50% — open by day 100 of his presidency,’ Psaki said during a press conference last week. ‘And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week. Hopefully, it’s more.’
Her comment attracted criticism because the bar was so low.
‘The administration doesn’t have to exert much effort to meet this goal,’ Jonathan Butcher, an education fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told the Associated Press.
Biden clarified Wednesday evening that the goal is to get kids back in the classroom five-days-a-week and said schools might even opt to push classes into the summer ‘like it’s a different semester.’
When CNN’s Anderson Cooper mentioned the one-day-a-week caveat, Biden pushed back.
‘No, that’s not true,’ Biden said, explaining that the actual administration goal was getting kids in classrooms closer to full-time.
During the town hall, Biden also interacted with a second grader at the town hall.
He told her not to be scared and explained as a child ‘you’re the safest group of people in the whole world’ in terms of mortality from the coronavirus.
Biden made the point to the youngster that it’s also not good for kids to be out of school.
‘That’s kind of a scary thing too,’ the president said. ‘You don’t get to go to school, you don’t get to see your friends.’