President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday morning to cut federal funding to schools that choose not to reopen their doors this fall in response to concerns about coronavirus.
Trump tweeted his dismay that U.S. schools couldn’t reopen the way that other countries in the world were able to do so, and suggested refusing to start classes back up was a ploy by Democrats to hurt him in a political way.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” Trump wrote. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families.”
“May cut off funding if not open!” Trump added at the end of his tweet.
In a second tweet later in the morning, Trump took aim at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for reopening schools, describing them as being too expensive and lacking practicality.
“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things,” Trump said.
During an event on Tuesday that was billed as a conference call with governors across the country, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made similar complaints about schools not reopening.
“Risk is involved in everything we do, from learning to ride a bike to riding a rocket into space and everything in between,” DeVos added.
Hours after Trump’s tweets on Wednesday morning, it was reported that New York City schools would not fully reopen in the fall. Instead, New York is planning to implement distance learning for students of the largest school district in the country, with staggered in-person attendance for pupils one-to-three days per week, in classrooms with no more than a dozen individuals (including teachers) within them.
The CDC has a number of recommendations for schools that plan to reopen this fall, including requiring masks for most students, keeping students distanced in classrooms, and having students sit every-other seat on buses, among many other ideas to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Such rules, if implemented, would likely require an increase in costs for districts across the country.
Trump’s complaint over how schools are reopening in Europe fails to take into account the fact that those nations are themselves implementing strong rules for social distancing and other methods for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
In Germany, for example, hallways go in designated one-way directions, masks must be worn, and desks are assigned, in addition to being socially distanced apart from one another. Denmark is also implementing strict rules, with elementary students placed in micro-groups away from each other and kept in separate “zones” on playground equipment. They are also required to engage in regular, almost hourly handwashing.
There’s another problem with Trump’s complaint: coronavirus has been more widespread in the U.S. than it has in the countries he listed. According to numbers compiled by Our World in Data, the per capita number of cases in the countries listed by Trump in his Wednesday morning tweet are considerably less than what’s seen in the United States.
Norway has around 1,648 cases per million residents, while Denmark has about 2,225 cases per million. Germany is not that much different from Denmark, with about 2,355 cases per million. Sweden, with 7,262 cases per million residents, comes the closest to the U.S. numbers, which are 9,051 cases per million.