Biden takes first steps to reopen schools

On his second day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to facilitate the 'safe' reopening of schools. The order, titled “Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers,” directs Health and Human Services to collect nationwide data on school closures and provide guidance for safe reopenings. It also calls on the Federal Communications Commission to expand internet access, as many students in virtual learning still lack access to broadband.

Biden’s plan allows schools to utilize Federal Emergency Management Funds for Covid-related expenses like new ventilation systems and PPE. The president has called on Congress to provide an additional $130 billion for K-12 schools, $35 billion for colleges, and $350 billion for state and local governments for COVID relief.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten lauded the president’s efforts.

“Finally, we have a president who is committed to doing what educators, parents and students have yearned for since the first weeks of the pandemic — a real national plan to crush Covid that follows the science and secures the resources to make in-school learning safe,” she said (CNBC). 

Teachers unions have resisted most efforts to reopen classrooms during the pandemic, insisting on further measures that ensure the safety of educators and other school employees. While Biden is a reliable ally of organized labor, his administration has pledged to reopen schools in the first 100 days.