Biden: Schools should stay open despite omicron wave
President Biden on Tuesday reiterated his belief that schools in the United States should remain physically open despite the wave of coronavirus cases driven largely by the omicron variant.
Biden noted during remarks at the White House that his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan included billions of dollars to help support school reopenings during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have no reason to think at this point that omicron is worse for children than previous variants. We know that our kids can be safe when in school by the way. That’s why I believe schools should remain open. They have what they need,” Biden said before a briefing with his COVID-19 response team.
Biden said that $130 billion from the coronavirus relief law passed in March went toward reopening schools and an additional $10 billion was allotted for COVID-19 testing in schools.
“That money went out to the states and the states and the school districts have spent this money well, many of them, but unfortunately some of them haven’t,” Biden said. “So, I encourage the states and school districts to use the funding that you still have to protect your children and keep the schools open.”
Biden’s remarks were consistent with his past statements that schools should remain open. The White House has touted the progress on school reopenings in Biden’s first year, distributing a memo to Democrats at the end of last year noting that 99 percent of schools were open compared with 46 percent when Biden took office.
Republicans have tried to make school reopenings a political issue, arguing that Democrats are siding with teachers unions and support closing schools during the pandemic.
Some schools have decided to revert to remote learning for periods of time as cases surge around the country, including districts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) stood firm in plans to reopen schools in the new year, rejecting a bid from the city’s biggest teacher union to change temporarily to virtual learning.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki similarly highlighted the funding in Biden’s coronavirus relief law for school reopenings and urged schools and states that have not yet tapped into that funding to do so immediately.
“Ninety-seven percent of schools are open across the country and the president wants schools to be open,” Psaki told reporters at a briefing following Biden’s remarks. “If states have not used it, and some have not, and if school districts have not used it, now is the time to use it.”
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