President Joe Biden moved the goalposts Tuesday night about his administration’s goal for reopening schools and in the process threw his press secretary, Jen Psaki, under the bus.
The administration’s original goal was to have a majority of schools open at least one day per week, according to comments made by Psaki last week during a daily press briefing.
And much like Biden’s vaccination goal, it was criticized as setting too low a bar as many school districts across the country had already opened before Biden took office and more were in the process of opening by the time he was sworn in as president.
But on Tuesday night at a CNN town hall, Biden told moderator Anderson Cooper that Psaki was incorrect and that what he said was a majority of K-8 (not all) schools should be open in his first 100 days.
“No, that’s not true. That’s what was reported; that’s not true. There was a mistake in the communication,” Biden said. “But what I — what I’m talking about is I said opening the majority of schools in K-through-eighth grade because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be opened, in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home.”
“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first hundred days,” Biden said.
Biden also contradicted Psaki when he told Cooper that schools may have to be open over the summer to make up for the lost learning.
“My guess is they’re probably going to be pushing to open all summer to continue like it’s a different semester,” Biden said of the summer plans.
But Psaki told the media last week that schools wouldn’t be open over the summer.
“And you’re right: Schools won’t be in session for the summer, but this is a pandemic we’re working to get under control, making progress every month. And we’re certainly hopeful that things will be — more kids will be back in school five days a week as quickly as it can safely happen.”
Psaki then tried to clarify her remarks to line up with Biden’s in a tweet Tuesday night.
“Last week I said @POTUS goal was to open schools five days a week as quickly as possible. And that we are going to rely on science. Which is exactly what we are doing,” Psaki said.
In case helpful. Last week I said @POTUS goal was to open schools five days a week as quickly as possible. And that we are going to rely on science. Which is exactly what we are doing.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 17, 2021
The science says that transmission rates in the schools are very low — often lower than in the community at large — and the CDC is urging returning students to school as long as social distancing and mask-wearing protocols are in place. And yet the Biden administration has placed 90% of K-12 schools in coronavirus “red zones” with the most stringent reopening school guidelines.