Betsy DeVos Breaks With President Donald Trump On CDC Guidelines, But Still Wants Schools To Reopen

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump attend a 2017 parent-teacher conference listening session.
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On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reaffirmed an opinion shared by President Donald Trump that children should be back in school for in-person classes beginning this fall. However, DeVos also diverged from the president on key points, including his stated opinions on guidelines suggested by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) regarding the reopening of schools, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

“The point needs to be how do kids get back to learning in the fall full-time and how do we ensure that they get a full year-plus of learning,” she told host Chris Wallace. “They’ve fallen behind this spring; we need to ensure they’re back in a classroom situation wherever possible and whenever possible and fully functioning, fully learning.”

DeVos did concede, however, that there could potentially be exceptions in areas that are experiencing a surge in the number of coronavirus case numbers. This represented a seeming change in tone for DeVos, as well as a departure from Trump, who has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t reopen.

“Where there are hot spots in the future, in the fall, of course that has to be dealt with differently,” she said.

On Wednesday, the president made headlines by inferring that the reluctance to reopen schools was politically motivated. He further lauded countries like Denmark, Germany and Norway for allowing in-person classes and indicated that he could cut funding to American schools that don’t follow suit.

Teachers unions and governors around the U.S. have expressed concern about reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies to a Senate committee on her department's budget.
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DeVos further broke from the president by defending the CDC’s recommendations on safely reopening schools, referring to them as “common sense approaches.”

“All of the guidelines are meant to be helpful, to help local education leaders decide and work on how they are going to accomplish what they need to do, and that is getting kids back in school based on their situation and their realities,” she said.

Those statements stood in stark contrast to those of Trump, who just days ago stated via Twitter that he disagreed with the CDC’s guidelines, calling them “tough” and “expensive.” While he asserted that the CDC wants schools to be fully operational in spite of the ongoing pandemic, the president maintained that the organization was asking them to do “very impractical things” in order to facilitate the reopening.

Although DeVos’ commentary regarding the guidelines differed from Trump’s point of a view, she did point out that the CDC never recommended shutting schools down to begin with, and maintained that it should be a matter of when, not if, schools resume in-person classes.