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Education leaders respond to President Trump's pressure to reopen schools

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 19:44:07-04

As President Donald Trump pressures schools to reopen this fall or risk losing federal funds, school districts have been working around the clock to finalize plans for fall amidst ever-changing circumstances.

Some of Wisconsin's education leaders say reopening will vary between communities.

"Some schools will have more space and others. Some schools will have less space. So some schools will put in different models," said Deputy State Superintendent Mike Thompson, with the Department of Public Instruction.

As many families wait to hear what school will look like in the fall, Thompson thinks most districts are working toward in-person learning to the best of their ability.

"I don't think there's any question from anybody's perspective that kids are better off back in school back in front of their teachers and in a face to face. But the fact of the matter is, is we have to do it safely," said Thompson.

With new coronavirus cases climbing in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association had harsh words for the president's recent remarks.
"He has purposely failed public schools and now he wants to scapegoat public school students and public school workers by threatening to withhold federal funding from districts that can't safely reopen and it's shameful," said MTEA President Amy Mizialko.

Menomonee Falls and Franklin school districts both want students back for in-person learning with changes.

Milwaukee Public Schools plans to unveil its recommendation next week.

School Board Director for MPS, Paula Phillips, says they are continuing to talk with public health officials, parents, and educators.

"I think what would it take to have the president’s comments affect anything that we do would be if he actually offered resources and actual instruction or at least agree with the CDC in terms of what safety parameters are needed to keep kids in person and safe," said Phillips.

Thompson could not respond directly to President Trump's threat to cut federal funding, citing the lack of context about what the president was referring to.

However, Thompson said while federal dollars make up a small percentage of school funds considering the financial burden coronavirus has cost school districts cutting even small amounts of funding could jeopardize their ability to provide quality education.

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