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No, Biden did not break his promises on schools reopening

Republican lawmakers have been lying about President Joe Biden breaking promises for two months.

By Josh Israel - May 03, 2021
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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at State Department

Congressional Republicans are accusing President Joe Biden of breaking a promise to reopen schools in the first 100 days of his administration. They are lying.

“Promising to open schools months ago and *actually* opening schools are different things, President Biden,” the House Republican Conference tweeted on Monday. “Students are falling behind. Open the schools.”

“President Biden pledged to reopen America’s schools in his first 100 days. He failed,” charged the Republican minority on the House Oversight Committee.

“Biden promised to reopen schools within his first 100 days,” tweeted Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs. “Now he’s slow-walking it. Biden puts teacher unions and the Radical Left before our kids.”

These attacks are nothing new: Republican lawmakers have been accusing Biden of breaking this promise for two months.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) held up a poster of a “report card” for Biden, giving him an F on reopening schools in the first 100 days, just 43 days into Biden’s administration.

The Republican National Committee said in a since-deleted tweet on day 36 of Biden’s presidency, “On the campaign trial [sic], Biden promised to reopen schools within his first 100 days in office. But that is just another promise that President Biden hasn’t kept.”

Now that Biden has actually reached the 100-day mark, Republicans are again ramping up the attacks. But contrary to their claims, Biden has kept his promises regarding education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Dec. 8, Biden said he would try to reopen most schools over the course of 100 days — with two major caveats.

“It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school,” he said. “If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators, and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”

Congress did not pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which included $125 billion to help schools return to in-person learning more safely, until March 10. Every single Republican in the House and Senate opposed the legislation at every step of the way.

While Biden urged states to adopt mask mandates and other safety measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, many Republican-led states refused to do so or rolled back regulations before their outbreaks were under control. Biden called this “a big mistake” on March 3, slamming the “Neanderthal thinking” that caution was no longer needed.

Since Biden took office, more than 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and new American infections have dropped. But the pandemic has not gone away.

Still, the vast majority of the nation’s elementary and middle schools have returned to some form of in-person instruction, according to the Department of Education. As of February, 49% of elementary and middle schools were operating in person on a full-time basis, the Institute of Education Sciences determined.

Decisions to reopen are made at the state and local level, not by the White House. With documented instances of coronavirus spread in schools and the vaccine so far only available those age 16 and over, many local school systems have opted for a hybrid model with some in-person and some remote instruction.

Altogether, 80% of public elementary and middle schools have at least partial in-person instruction, well above the majority Biden set as his goal.

As many communities prepare to wrap up their school years in the next few weeks, the Biden administration says it is already helping more schools find safer ways to reopen in the fall. It has already distributed $81 billion in funding allocated in the American Rescue Plan to states “for immediate use this spring and planning ahead for summer and beyond.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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