Administration

Psaki: White House wants to see Chicago Public Schools open

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said President Biden wants to see schools open, citing the mental health implications on children, as Chicago Public Schools closed for a fourth day.

“We have been very clear publicly and privately that we want to see schools open,” Psaki said when asked what the White House’s message is to the teachers union that forced the closure and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) on what it wants to see in the coming days. 

Chicago Public Schools closed again on Monday, Lightfoot announced on Sunday evening, as negotiations continue between schools and the Chicago Teachers Union about COVID-19 safety protocols.

The White House has been in touch regularly with Lightfoot, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and the teachers union, Psaki said.

“The mental health impacts on kids of not having schools open is very harsh and hard, and he does not want to see schools closed across the country. … There is no secret about that. That continues to be what he states,” Psaki said

“We will continue to be in touch with local leaders in Chicago to work to get their schools open,” she said.

Chicago classrooms were closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week, affecting roughly 350,000 students. On Sunday, Lightfoot called the teachers union walkout “illegal” and said she is doing everything she can to make sure students return to the classroom this week. 

Psaki pointed to funding in the American Rescue Plan, which the president signed into law in March, to assist with schools staying open.

“The president’s been very clear, as we have been clear, we are on the side of schools being open. That is why he advocated for funding in the American Rescue Plan, and we will continue to convey that clearly because he believes the mental health impact on kids could be dire, and it is imperative that kids are in the classroom,” she said. 

She noted that $5 billion of the American Rescue Plan’s funding went to Illinois and that $10 billion went to testing across the country.

The funding was “to ensure we were prepared and had resources needed to address whatever may come up in the pandemic,” Psaki said.

Tags Jen Psaki Joe Biden Lori Lightfoot

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