Ernst Noncommittal On Trump Threat To Withhold School Funding

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst declined to give a direct answer Thursday night when asked whether she supports President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold federal funding from schools that do not resume in-person classes this fall.

“Do you agree with President Trump that the schools that don’t reopen should have their funding cut?” asked a person at The Hall in West Des Moines where Ernst attended an Iowa Young Republicans event.

“I’d have to look at that policy,” Ernst replied. “I want it (schools reopening) done safely and sensibly and I think that’s the right way to do it.”

The individual’s interaction with Ernst, who was wearing a Republican-themed mask, lasted less than 30 seconds, but the person also was able to ask whether she supported opening Iowa schools in the fall.

“I do, safely and sensibly,” Ernst said. “If we can do it safely, we should.”

On June 25, the Iowa Department of Education released its first set of guidelines for K-12 schools, sparking controversy by discouraging districts from requiring students and teachers to wear face masks. In response to public confusion around the brief set of guidelines, on June 30 the department released an FAQ that doubled-down on its stance against a face covering requirement. The fact sheet also explains why the department’s guidelines don’t require social distancing in schools or temperature screenings.

Decisions on face masks, social distancing and screening for symptoms of COVID-19 largely will be left to individual school districts, in addition to whether districts opt for in-person schooling, virtual classes or a combination of the two.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted his threat to withhold funding for schools “if not open,” citing European countries that reopened “WITH NO PROBLEMS.”

The vast majority of funding for America’s public schools is allocated through local property taxes, sales tax and state dollars. The small portion controlled by the federal government already has been budgeted by Congress and is unlikely to be rescinded.

Trump repeated the threat today, writing on Twitter that “Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning.”

“If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding?” he wrote. “It won’t!!!”

The president also has criticized reopening recommendations from the CDC, calling them “very tough & expensive” for schools and complained that the guidelines include “very impractical things.”

 

By Elizabeth Meyer
Posted 7/10/20

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