Connecting state and local government leaders
In a virtual call with members of the National Governors Association, President-elect Joe Biden reiterated his desire for most schools to return to in-person learning in the first 100 days of his administration.
President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday reiterated his desire for most schools to resume in-person instruction in the first 100 days of his administration, telling a bipartisan group of about 30 governors that he expected them to help ensure that educators have what they need to reopen safely.
“I’m going to ask—and I know it’s going to be controversial for some of you—but I’m going to ask that we’re going to be able to open schools at the end of a hundred days,” he said on a virtual call with members of the National Governors Association. “That’s going to take a lot of money, but we know how to do it. If we have the money and the funding, we do everything from ventilation to more teachers, smaller class sizes, a whole range of things.”
Biden last week called on federal lawmakers to supply additional funding to help schools reopen and promised to prioritize allocating doses of the coronavirus vaccine for educators, but provided few other details on how to achieve the goal of sending students back to school by April.
As Covid-19 cases have surged in recent weeks, many districts that were offering in-person classes to students pulled back, moving to entirely remote learning. Some other districts have been operating remote for the school year, but teachers have complained about lack of engagement and studies show many students, particularly those from disadvantaged households, are falling behind academically.
At the same time, teachers and other school personnel have raised concerns about the health risks of returning to old school buildings that often lack proper ventilation. With the recent approval of one Covid vaccine, and another expected this week, teacher unions and school leaders are lobbying to give educators early priority as the shots are rolled out.
During his campaign, Biden released a five-step plan to resume in-person instruction by asking Congress to provide up to $30 billion in additional funding. That plan promised that final decisions on reopening schools would be left to state and local officials, but tasked the federal government “with establishing basic, objective criteria” to help guide them.
On Wednesday, Biden also pledged to work with governors on the “Herculean task” of distributing the coronavirus vaccine safely and equitably, saying there would likely need to be some kind of public education campaign to inform people, particularly those in hard-to-reach communities, about the rollout.
“This road is going to be long and it’s going to be tough,” he said. “But I want you to know this is not a one-off meeting.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.