Archives for category: Trump

Eileen Sullivan and Erica L. Green of the New York Times managed to get a copy of an internal (secret) report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that warned of the dangers of opening schools without adequate protection of students and staff.

WASHINGTON — Federal materials for reopening schools, shared the week President Trump demanded weaker guidelines to do so, said fully reopening schools and universities remained the “highest risk” for the spread of the coronavirus.

The 69-page document, obtained by The New York Times and marked “For Internal Use Only,” was intended for federal public health response teams to have as they are deployed to hot spots around the country. But it appears to have circulated the same week that Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would release new guidelines, saying that the administration did not want them to be “too tough.” It is unclear whether Mr. Trump saw the document, nor is it clear how much of it will survive once new guidance is completed.

(The cover page of the document is dated July 8, 2019, an obvious typographical error since the novel coronavirus did not exist then.)

What is clear is that federal health experts are using a road map that is vastly different from what Mr. Trump wanted.

While it is mostly a compilation of C.D.C. documents already posted online, it includes reopening plans drafted by states, districts and individual schools and universities. And the package, from the Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, is pointed.

In a “talking points” section, the material is critical of “noticeable gaps” in all of the K-12 reopening plans it reviewed, though it identified Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Minnesota as having the most detailed.

“While many jurisdictions and districts mention symptom screening, very few include information as to the response or course of action they would take if student/faculty/staff are found to have symptoms, nor have they clearly identified which symptoms they will include in their screening,” the talking points say. “In addition, few plans include information regarding school closure in the event of positive tests in the school community.”

And its suggestions for mitigating the risk of school reopenings would be expensive and difficult for many districts, like broad testing of students and faculty and contact tracing to find people exposed to an infected student or teacher.

The debate about school reopenings comes as the virus is spreading at its fastest pace yet across the country, a trend some attribute to states reopening prematurely this spring on a timeline encouraged by Mr. Trump. Now some states are pausing their reopening plans and in some cases reimposing restrictions to contain the spread. Schools in California have had to cancel their plans for in-person classes as the virus surges..

And as Mr. Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were trying to pressure local schools to comply with their reopening vision, the document was expressly saying the federal government should not override local judgment.

“These C.D.C. considerations are meant to supplement — not replace — any federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations” with which schools must comply, the packet states in bold lettering. “Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, and acceptable and be tailored to the needs of each community…”

“This is the document we needed six weeks ago,” said Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, calling it “concise, accessible and actionable.”

“While it is a great resource for superintendents as they navigate the myriad issues they need to address as they work to reopen schools,” he said, “it is also a great communication tool, a resource that can be shared with the community to help account for decisions being made and to share reliable, science-based information.”

Since May, the C.D.C. website has cautioned that full reopening would be “highest risk,” and that in both K-12 and higher education settings, the more people interact, “and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread.” The “lowest risk,” the guidelines say, would be for students and teachers to attend virtual-only classes — an option the administration this week began a full-court press against.

All week, the Trump administration has been raising the pressure on schools and universities to reopen with in-person education. On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that international students whose colleges went fully online would have to transfer to a school offering in-person classes or leave the country.

By Wednesday, Ms. DeVos had publicly chastised a public school district in Fairfax County, Va., for offering parents a choice of in-person classes two days a week or fully online instruction. The department and the president said they were exploring options for using federal funding as leverage to force full reopening.

That Wednesday, Mr. Trump rejected the C.D.C. guidelines, calling them “very tough & expensive” on Twitter. Then Mr. Pence announced that the C.D.C. would issue new recommendations next week. “We just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” he said.

On Friday, after repeating threats of cutting off federal funding from schools that do not fully reopen — which he does not have the authority to do — Mr. Trump lashed out again.

“Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, virtual learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning,” he wrote on Twitter. “Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall.”.

You may recall that when Betsy DeVos was interviewed by the Senate when she was confirmed, she sang the praises of virtual schools, despite the copious research that shows the deficiencies of online charter schools. Now she and Trump are insistent that schools must reopen fully for in-person instruction, five days a week, without the money to provide the safety protocols that the CDC recommends. In effect, they are urging the highest possible risk for students in K-12 and in colleges and universities.

What becomes clear is that they want students in schools so their parents can go back to work and jumpstart the economy. They don’t care about the risks to lives. For them, reopening the schools is a political necessity. Neither of them recommend appropriating the funds to make students and staff safe. If schools don’t reopen, or reopen only partially, they can conveniently blame the “greedy,” “selfish” teachers unions for keeping schools closed. They accept no responsibility to comply with the CDC guidelines.

Betsy DeVos said on CNN that schools need not follow the CDC guidelines.

The CDC guidelines for schools to reopen contain steps to keep children safe, including keeping desks placed six feet apart and for children to use cloth face coverings. The CDC suggests the closing of communal areas like dining rooms and playgrounds and the installation of physical barriers like sneeze guards where necessary.

“There is nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them,” DeVos said, when asked by Bash if she can assure parents and students that schools will be safe and pressed on health guidance that says children are at highest risk when meeting in full-sized, in-person classes — doubling down on a similar comment she made last week.

Trump and Pence has admitted that they pressured the CDC to water down the guidelines to make it easier for schools to reopen. So far, the CDC has not done so.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Bash later in the program that CDC guidelines should be a requirement and called DeVos’ comments on schools being safe for students a “malfeasance and dereliction of duty.”

“This is appalling,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat. “The President and his administration are messing with the health of our children. We all want our children to go back to school. Teachers do, parents do and children do. But they must go back safely.”

Just today, the nation’s leading education groups–the National Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of School Superintendents, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, called for schools to reopen safely, safely, safely, and calls on the Administration and Congress to provide the necessary resources for reopening safely to be possible.

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a few days ago that his father wants “open schools and closed borders,” while his opponent Joe Biden wants “closed schools and open borders.” Opening the schools without the funding to make them safe is a demagogic and dangerous tactic in the midst of a pandemic that still is out of control in many states.

If Trump and DeVos want schools to reopen for full in-person instruction, Trump should tell Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back into session to pass the HEROES Act and demand all the funding necessary to make schools and colleges safe.

The American people need to know that Trump and DeVos want the schools to open fully with no safeguards in place for students or staff.

That’s wrong. It should not happen.

ProPublica wrote about a private contractor who wanted to help “build the Wall.” He won a federal contract for $1.7 billion and quickly erected three miles of Trump’s Wall. Problem is that it’s now at risk of falling into the Rio Grande River.

Working in collaboration with the Texas Tribune, ProPublica wrote:

Tommy Fisher billed his new privately funded border wall as the future of deterrence, a quick-to-build steel fortress that spans 3 miles in one of the busiest Border Patrol sectors.

Unlike a generation of wall builders before him, he said he figured out how to build a structure directly on the banks of the Rio Grande, a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

Fisher has leveraged his self-described “Lamborghini” of walls to win more than $1.7 billion worth of federal contracts in Arizona.

But his showcase piece is showing signs of runoff erosion and, if it’s not fixed, could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, according to engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall for ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. It never should have been built so close to the river, they say

Two states—Texas and Florida—are moving forward to open their schools for five-day, in-person instruction, even though the rate of coronavirus infections in both states is rising.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has demanded that schools across the nation restart and become fully operational, although she has no power to force schools to reopen when local officials believe it is unwise and unsafe. She and Trump are trying to force schools to open as if there were no pandemic and no risks to students and staff. They think that opening schools will be good for the economy and help his re-election. It’s hard to see how it will help his standing in the polls if the pandemic continues to spread and claims more victims.

DeVos made a point of praising Florida Commissioner Richard Corcoran (former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives who has no background or qualifications in education and has expressed his desire to totally voucherize every school in the state) for ordering every school to reopen fully in mid-August.

As reported in Education Week, Corcoran left a loophole:

Corcoran’s Monday order says that, when they reopen in August, “all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students.” But those decisions are “subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health” and other state orders.

Calling on schools to open “at least five days per week for all students” seems to eliminate the possibility of hybrid remote learning plans that have been among the most popular models for districts around the country. While the Trump administration has not clarified what exactly it expects from schools, DeVos has criticized hybrid plans as inadequate.

The school boards in Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade have announced that they will seek exemptions and continue remote or hybrid programs rather than reopen fully.

Texas has been promoting reopening, but local boards and teachers in hard-hit areas of the state are resisting.

The Trump administration has been citing the American Academy of Pediatrics as its justification for forcing schools to open, but AAP President Sally Goza pushed back and said that schools should not reopen without the financial resources to do so safely.

She told NPR that the AAP does not support rigid state mandates:

“We will be sticking to what our guidelines say —that if it does not look safe in your community to open schools, that we need to really have that looked at. We also need to make sure that schools have the needed resources to reopen safely so that a lack of funding is not a reason to keep students home, which we’re hearing in a lot of communities—to do what we’re asking people to do to make schools safe is not really financially feasible in some of these communities.”

Leading Democrats in the House control the federal government’s appropriations. They have the power of the purse, given to the House of Representatives by the Constitution (do Donald and Betsy know that?). They have a message for Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos: Bo bullying.

July 9, 2020

Katelynn Thorpe (DeLauro), 202-225-1599
Bob Schwalbach (Sablan), 202-309-5787

Chairs DeLauro and Sablan Respond to Trump Administration’s Threats to Defund Public Education

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, and Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI), Chair of the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education and Labor Subcommittee released the following statement on the Trump Administration’s threats to defund public education if schools do not fully reopen:

“The Trump administration attempting to utilize desperately needed relief aid to bully schools into prematurely opening is shameful and reckless. Once again, this administration is prioritizing its political agenda over the health and safety of our nation’s children. Congress has not and will not grant the administration the authority to withhold federal funds from local school districts that are following the advice of health experts to safely reopen. Any forthcoming relief package will require the administration promptly and faithfully deliver this aid to public schools.

“We refuse to allow the president or Secretary DeVos to take advantage of a global pandemic to dismantle public education. Parents, teachers, and health experts want schools to reopen safely, and House Democrats are working to invest the resources needed to do just that.”

Call on Congress and Governors to supply the funding to reopen our schools safely!

Don’t open schools where the pandemic is raging.

Protect the lives of students and staff!

Kevin Welner is the director of the National Education Policy Center and a Professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

He writes:

The definition of chutzpah, according to the old joke, is the kid who kills his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan. President Trump has added a twist on the joke: the kid who kills his parents and then complains that they don’t drive him to school.

When the European Union was hit early and hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, its member countries took the necessary steps to drive down their infection numbers. Through the now commonly understood mitigation steps such as social distancing, masks, and testing plus isolation, once-devastated countries like Italy, Spain, France, Ireland and Belgium now regularly report daily deaths in the single digits. In contrast, the death rates in the US have doggedly remained around 500 per day, with infection rates again climbing upward. While EU countries urgently buckled down, our corresponding urgency was to reopen bars, tattoo parlors, and hair salons. And we bizarrely managed to turn mask-refusal into a political statement. That difference between the EU and the US is one reason why they can now take cautious steps to return to normal-ish life while we drunkenly stagger toward an uncertain future.

President Trump can’t be exclusively blamed for all of the US failures, but his policies, public statements, and actions set us apart from countries that responded with greater urgency and wisdom. Now he’s threatening to cut off federal funding to schools if they don’t return to in-person instruction this fall. His framing is overtly political: “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems 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!” he tweeted on Wednesday morning.
Interestingly, the timing of this tweet corresponded with the publication of a front-page article in Wednesday’s New York Times about how Sweden’s decision to not impose social distancing has been a misadventure, costing thousands of lives and doing little to sustain the economy. The other three countries name-checked in the Trump tweet are similarly instructive. Denmark and Norway responded strongly even before the virus attacked there; the two countries together account for fewer than 900 deaths total, and the current infection rates are negligible. Germany was hit hard around April, with some days recording 300 or more deaths, but its serious response quickly lowered the spread of the disease. The current daily death rate across Germany is in the single digits.

So, yes, these countries and others are now able to open their schools. But they first laid the groundwork. Ideally, we can do so as well. Any political considerations – for or against the election of a given presidential candidate – should be irrelevant. As the President’s tweet correctly pointed out, re-opening schools (in person) is important for children and families. Moreover, infection, disease and transmission risks are lower for the children and youth who would be attending K-12 schools. For this reason, as well as the importance of education, the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for schools to reopen if possible.

This is, quite reasonably, a risk analysis – one that takes into account benefits as well as costs of in-person schooling at this time. Last spring’s experience illustrated the many important roles played by our public schools and the urgent need for in-person schooling. (Although, ironically, both President Trump and Secretary DeVos have questioned the value of education provided in public schools.) Recently in the Answer Sheet, Carol Burris made a compelling case for re-opening, as did Emily Oster in the Atlantic.

Yet no compelling case of societal benefits will suffice if children, parents, teachers and other school staff feel that school attendance is not worth the personal risk. Because of such concerns, substantially more parents are looking at homeschooling for the fall. For-profit online schooling companies (which, along with other software companies, have been marketing aggressively) are also apparently experiencing a boost – notwithstanding extraordinarily poor outcomes. We can expect that many teachers will similarly weigh their personal risks and, particularly in cases of older teachers or those with other risk factors or who are more financially secure, opt against teaching before it is safer to return.

President Trump himself can make in-person reopening more likely and more successful. Most obviously, he can urge all people in the U.S. to wear a mask when in public – and he can set the example by doing so himself. Legislatively, he can work with his allies in Congress to provide the $200 billion in federal stimulus funding needed to cover estimated shortfalls in state and local funding for P-12 education over the next two years. The nation’s public schools are facing major funding cut-backs at a time when the President and the rest of us are asking them to do much more – in terms of addressing greater student needs and in terms of virus mitigation and social distancing.

In short, the chutzpah of the President’s current push for in-person schooling in the fall is that he, more than anyone else, has created the conditions that make such reopening so difficult and risky – and he, more than anyone else, has it in his power to ease that difficulty and that risk.

No one is above the law! We are still a nation of laws. Separation of powers exists still.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Trump must release his tax returns to prosecutors in New York who are investigating him.

David Savage of the Los Angeles Times writes:

The Supreme Court dealt President Trump a major defeat Thursday by rejecting his claims of presidential immunity and upholding subpoenas from New York prosecutors seeking his tax returns and financial records.

In one of the most anticipated rulings on presidential privilege in years, the justices by a 7-2 vote ruled the nation’s chief executive is not above the law and must comply with legitimate demands from a grand jury in New York that was investigating Trump’s alleged hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had sex with him.

Trump had sued to block the subpoenas and claimed that as president he had an “absolute immunity” from demands for personal or confidential information.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, rejected Trump’s claim of immunity.

“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the president is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”

A decision on a similar subpoena from House investigators was expected to be issued by the court shortly in a separate opinion.

The election-year dispute had an obvious political significance, but it was also the rare separation of powers case in which the powers of the president, Congress and the judicial system were all at issue.

In past rulings on similar high-profile cases, the court had unanimously ruled that the president is not above the law, forcing President Nixon to hand over the Watergate tapes and President Clinton to be deposed in the Paula Jones harassment lawsuit.

Unlike other presidents since the Watergate era of the 1970s, Trump refused to disclose his tax returns and has kept secret the details of his business dealings. Investigators were particularly interested in whether Trump and his businesses were heavily indebted to foreign banks.

Trump said during the 2016 campaign he expected to release his tax returns, but then refused to do so.

Trump and DeVos demand that schools reopen in full, in-person, on time in a few weeks, even as they block the resources needed by schools to protect students and staff from the pandemic that is raging across the nation.

Districts in which there are few or no COVID infections may choose to reopen if they have the resources to do it safely.

But in states and districts where the disease is still rampaging and where schools do not have adequate resources, reopening is dangerous.

Trump and DeVos have threatened “financial sanctions” against schools that don’t open for in-person instruction. Instead of pressuring schools, they should be fighting the spread of the disease. They could start by wearing masks themselves.

Not only are they blocking the additional funding needed for smaller classes, social distancing, personal protective equipment, and additional nurses, they demand that all public schools open despite the dramatic budget cuts and layoffs that fiscally-challenged states will impose on schools.

Matt Barnum wrote in Chalkbeat about the administration’s efforts to force schools to reopen:

Meanwhile, Trump and DeVos downplayed public health concerns connected to opening up schools, despite rising national case numbers. Trump tweeted that he disagreed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — part of his own administration — which has issued guidance for schools around social distancing and school hygiene. “They are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump wrote.

In other words, Trump is bullying the CDC to water down its safety guidance for schools. We already have seen federal officials equivocate for fear of Trump’s wrath. Dr. Deborah Birx said nothing when Trump urged the public to ingest disinfectants, even though it would be fatal to anyone who tried it. Just a few days ago, the head of the Federal Drug Administration was asked on CNN if he agreed with Trump’s claim that 99% of COVID cases are “totally harmless.” He refused to disagree with Trump’s patently false statement.

Thankfully, the CDC just announced that it won’t bend to political pressure to weaken its guidelines for reopening schools.

The death of any student or teacher or staff member at a school that opened too soon will be on Trump, Pence, and DeVos.

We are in the midst of a fierce pandemic, and there is no national leadership calling on us to rise to the occasion, wear masks, protect ourselves and others by following the advice of scientists. Everyone is on their own. We are adrift and rudderless.

As much as parents long to have their children in real schools with real teachers, as much as teachers long to be in their classrooms, it is not safe to reopen schools wherever the disease is active.


Stay home. Continue distance learning. Demand that our elected officials exercise leadership and require quarantines, masks, social distancing, and whatever else is necessary to curb the pandemic.

What is the life of a child or a teacher worth? How many lives will be sacrificed to open schools in the midst of a pandemic?

Safety first. Life first. Only when it is safe for children and adults alike should schools be reopened. It is not safe now.

Tulsa experienced a surge in new infections, and Tulsa health officials say that the Trump rally on June 20 was a likely cause.

Keep watch on the numbers in Arizona and South Dakota, where Trump held rallies, also Trump’s next stop, New Hampshire.

He is a Super Spreader. He is a one-man catastrophe.

In six weeks, the Republican National Convention will be held in Jacksonville, Florida. No social distancing. No requirement to wear masks. Lots of cheering and droplets in the air. Then delegates will fan out across the country, some bringing the disease home.

This is no way to fight a pandemic.

Trump has made clear that he wants federal funds to flow to private and religious schools if any new aid is approved to help public schools reopen. DeVos and Trump will use any opportunity to push federal money to religious schools.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Espinoza case, which ruled that any state that aided private schools had to provide aid to religious schools, has encouraged Trump and DeVos to push harder for federal funding of religious schools.

Thus far, the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee in the House has blocked all such requests by DeVos and Trump.

President Donald Trump will ask for a “one-time, emergency appropriation” for a new grant proposal, according to an outline of the plan obtained by McClatchy. The grants would be provided to states to distribute to nonprofit institutions that disburse scholarships to qualified students who want to attend non-public schools.

“I have never heard a single, compelling persuasive reason as to why somebody is against Education Freedom Scholarships, opportunity scholarships, school choice, charter schools. And the reason is this: we’re trying to give these kids just another opportunity and provide their parents with another option,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told McClatchy.

The White House is seeking to have 10% of the amount that Congress approves for state and local educational agencies set aside for the grants. Trump will also seek approval of $5 billion in federal tax credits for businesses and individuals who donate to the scholarship programs.

The Trump administration has been promoting school choice initiatives for weeks as a way to provide educational opportunities to children in underserved communities and get money to help financially struggling private and Catholic schools before the new school year.

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