Schools need federal support to reopen safely. The president’s bluster is a major distraction

Throughout the country, schools are working hard to figure out how to have a safe and productive school year in the midst of a pandemic.

President Donald Trump last week made a tough situation worse with threats and recriminations.

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Anyone who has been paying attention — and parents have been especially attentive — knows that school reopenings should be guided by science, safety and diligence. But as has been the case throughout the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, presidential bluster continues to complicate the already arduous task of getting children back to their classrooms.

Trump’s call to water down Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for how the nation’s schools could reopen safely and the threat to cut federal funding if classes aren’t conducted in person are the last things parents, teachers and school administrators need from the president.

If only the president were as attentive to the challenge and offered plans earlier instead of delivering rebukes now.

In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress dedicated about $13.2 billion for K-12 schools. Competing bills in the House and Senate would provide more federal assistance to schools, but both measures are deadlocked in Congress.

School administrators say an additional round of federal assistance is essential as they struggle to balance budgets, alter physical plants to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and improve remote learning. The president should be demanding Congress shake loose funds to help schools, not threatening to punish schools that don’t reopen with children in classrooms.

It is unclear what Trump wants from revised guidelines. Still, the mere hint of reduced precautions will make coaxing concerned teachers and students back into the classroom more difficult.

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The bottom line is that schools must have the leeway to determine when it is safe to reopen and they need federal government to help make that happen.

— The Dallas Morning News

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