Biden vows to take on GOP governors over schools
President Biden said Thursday he will take on Republican governors who are trying to prevent COVID-19 protocols in schools, vowing to “get them out of the way.”
“Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.
“If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” he added.
The president plans to call on governors to have all teachers and school staff in their states vaccinated and will urge schools to set up regular COVID-19 testing. He said the Department of Education has started to take legal action against states “undermining protection” that local school officials have put in place.
“Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld from doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government, 100 percent. I promise you. I will have your back,” he said.
Florida, Texas and Arizona have been at the forefront of the mounting tensions around mask mandates in schools, with their Republican governors fighting requirements.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in schools would require districts to allow parents to opt out, or else face a financial penalty, but a circuit judge ruled Florida schools must be allowed to impose mandates. DeSantis has filed an emergency appeal against the ruling.
The state Department of Education has moved to cut funding from some districts with mask mandates. Several schools in Florida and elsewhere have challenged bans against mask requirements in schools, taking the issue to the courts.
Biden announced Thursday a new rule to require all private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing, in an effort to boost vaccination rates in the coming weeks.
Biden’s remarks largely placed blame on unvaccinated Americans, saying their refusal “has cost all of us” and “our patience is wearing then.”