The Biden administration is coming under new pressure to support the reopening of schools after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published research showing schools can operate safely despite COVID-19, The Hill reported.
In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, three researchers at the CDC wrote there’s “little evidence” of widespread coronavirus transmission in schools when proper precautions are followed.
But teachers’ unions in several places across the country are resisting the push to return to in-person instruction, arguing it is not safe, The Hill noted.
The divide puts the new Biden administration in a tough political spot given support from teachers unions for the Democratic Party — and Republicans have seized on the issue to press for schools’ reopening, The Hill reported.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Tuesday night defended the unions, and argued: “I don’t think unions are overruling studies. I think what you're seeing is schools that haven't made the investments to keep the students safe.”
Congress already passed $82 billion to help schools reopen in the December relief package, but the Biden administration says that funding was just a "down payment" and that more is needed.
"I think the president recognizes, as we all do, the value of having children in schools and doing that in a safe way," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, The Hill reported. She added that more funding is needed "for getting schools the equipment, the testing, the ventilation, in some cases, that they need."
"Nobody wants to be having a conversation in May or June about why schools are not reopened," she added.
The CDC researchers did not say that vaccinating teachers is needed to return to in-person learning, contrary to the position taken by some teachers unions, The Hill reported.
“If schools are willing to strongly adhere to mitigation strategies, they can open safely,” Daniel Benjamin, a researcher at Duke University studying school reopening, told The Hill. “If you don’t have the mitigation strategies it’s going to be a dumpster fire.”
“If the schools are not fully committed to providing mitigation measures and strictly enforce them, I don’t want to send adults there,” he said.
Republicans think a widespread desire of Americans to get back to in-person school is a potent political issue for them against Democrats, The Hill noted.
“If Republicans can turn the page on the last three months and begin a unified message against this they will have majorities in both chambers after midterms,” tweeted Josh Holmes, a GOP strategist and adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., The Hill reported.
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