The Biden administration continues to provide numerous shifting answers on whether schools should reopen and how soon. Now the administration wants ventilation systems in schools not just to combat COVID-19, but also asthma and mold.
Much of the confusion surrounding Biden’s education plan comes from the administration’s conflicting definition of what reopening schools would even look like.
Back in December, Biden pledged “to bring the coronavirus pandemic under enough control to open most of the nation’s schools during his first 100 days as president.”
“It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school,” Biden said at the time. “If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”
Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked what Biden meant by reopening schools, whether that meant teachers in the classroom with students, kids in a classroom with a screen, or something else. Psaki responded by saying Biden’s “goal that he set is to have the majority of schools, so more than 50 percent, open by day 100 of his presidency. And that means some teaching in classrooms. So at least one a day week, hopefully it’s more. And obviously it is as much as is safe in each school and local district.”
Pressed further, Psaki said Biden defined schools being open as “Teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100.”
But on Tuesday, at a CNN townhall event, Biden said he did mean that schools would be open “five days a week.”
“That’s what was reported. That’s not true,” Biden said of Psaki’s earlier statement. “That was a mistake in the communications.”
But it’s not just a shifting definition of what “reopen” means, the Biden administration has also moved the goalposts on other factors. For example, Biden has always insisted more funding for schools would be necessary for them to reopen, yet schools have already been appropriated billions in extra funding and have spent a small fraction of those funds.
Many states added teachers to the front of the vaccine list in order to get them back in the classroom, yet even this didn’t work. Now, the issue seems to be that teachers unions want every school problem fixed before stepping foot back in the classroom, and the Biden administration appears to be acquiescing to their demands, even though the science says schools are safe.
Last week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden’s director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that “we very much advocate for another layer of mitigation to be improved ventilation. And that is not just really for COVID-19, but that is for many other things, that public health things that will improve when we improve ventilation in our school, including things like asthma and exposure to mold.”
The administration is now, predictably, getting support from mainstream media outlets. The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wrote this week that “many schools were not healthy environments for human beings before the pandemic. In too many places, this is the ordinary: crumbling buildings, unhealthy air quality, bugs and rodents, mold, broken or nonexistent air conditioning and heaters, nonfunctioning toilets, etc. If you don’t think that takes a daily toll on everybody inside a school, guess again.”
As John Podhoretz noted at the New York Post, “We shouldn’t be trying to mitigate asthma right now. We shouldn’t be trying to limit exposure to mold. We should be trying to save a generation from illiteracy, ignorance and existential despair.”
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