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As we have seen in recent weeks, Trump and Betsy DeVos want public schools to reopen for full-time, in-person instruction. Yesterday, in an interview with Chris Wallace of FOX News, Trump reiterated that he will stop federal funding of any schools that don’t comply. He said that children don’t get the virus and they don’t die from the virus. He said nothing about the vulnerability of educators. Wallace pointed out that most federal funding Is earmarked for poor children and students with disabilities but Trump was adamant that schools must reopen fully or face his wrath. He has offered no funding for making schools safe for Reopening, and he has abdicated any responsibility for federal leadership. He said in the same interview, when asked whether people should wear masks as public health experts advise, that mask-wearing was a decision for governors and individuals.
It seems like only yesterday that Trump and DeVos were cheerleaders for online learning, as Politico points out.
President Donald Trump’s newfound disdain for online education is a sharp departure from what his administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have long championed in terms of policy on virtual learning.
As he presses schools and colleges to physically reopen their doors this fall, Trump has dismissed online learning as an acceptable strategy that local education leaders can employ as they face surging coronavirus cases in many parts of the country.
“Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning,” Trump said in a tweet last week. “Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall.”
In events and media appearances over the past several weeks, the White House and administration officials have repeatedly insisted that the nation’s schools and colleges must physically reopen classes — and that online instruction, fully or partially, isn’t an appropriate alternative. They’ve threatened to use federal funding as a lever to prod schools into physically reopening.
The Trump administration has been clear that it’s concerned that schools remaining closed would be a drag on the economic recovery that the president is banking on ahead of the November election. “If we don’t reopen the schools that would be a setback to a true economic recovery,” Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser said this week.
Trump blasted Los Angeles school officials earlier this week for a “terrible decision” to keep the nation’s second-largest school district online-only when classes start in several weeks. Many other large school districts across the country are also defying Trump’s demands to physically reopen.
“It’s not a matter of if schools should reopen, it’s simply a matter of how,” DeVos has repeated several times in recent weeks as she’s become a main spokesperson for the Trump administration’s push to reopen schools. Schools, she has said, “must fully open and they must be fully operational.”
But the Trump administration’s focus on in-person instruction in traditional school buildings is a stark change for DeVos, who has long been an ardent proponent of virtual schools and individualized digital learning options for students.
As secretary of Education, she has also taken action to promote online instruction in both K-12 schools and higher education, steering money and grants toward digital learning options and scaling back federal regulations in order to promote distance education.
DeVos last year traveled the country on a “Rethink Education” tour in which she repeatedly called for education leaders to question longtime assumptions about what K-12 and higher education looks like — which she noted hasn’t changed much in several centuries.
“It’s past time to ask some of the questions that often get labeled as ‘non-negotiable’ or just don’t get asked at all,” DeVos said during a 2018 speech. Among them: “Why do students have to go to a school building in the first place?”
DeVos also touted “high-quality virtual charter schools” as “valuable” option during her confirmation process. She and her husband previously were investors in K12 Inc., one of the nation’s largest virtual school companies.
This speedy reversal has left boosters of online learning confused and dismayed.
To add to the confusion, DeVos continues to promote online higher education.