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White House criticized over goal for half of schools to be open 'one day a week' by end of April


Critics say Biden administration is moving the goal posts, while others say 'goal' has already been met

Alex Wong/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has revealed that President Joe Biden's goal in the first 100 days of his administration is for half of U.S. schools to be open for in-person instruction at least "one day a week."

But some critics are accusing the administration of moving the goal posts with the clarified position, while others say the White House's "goal" has already been met.

What are the details?

Biden vowed upon taking office that part of his plan in tackling COVID-19 includes "the goal of getting a majority of K-8 schools safely open in 100 days."

During a news conference on Tuesday, a reporter asked Psaki, "Could you help us understand what the White House's or the president's definition of open schools is? Does it mean teachers in classrooms teaching students in a classroom? Does it just mean kids in classroom with a remote screen? Help us understand."

Psaki replied that Biden's "goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so more than 50% — open by day 100 of his presidency, and that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week, hopefully it's more, and obviously it is as much as is safe in each school and local district."

After being pressed, she reiterated that means, "Teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100," but did not clarify what percentage of teachers should be showing up in person in order to meet the administration's definition.

Reason's Matt Welch accused Biden of "airlifting" the goalposts in reaction to Psaki's explanation, pointing to a CBS News report from earlier in the day that states:

Sixty-four percent of elementary and middle school students are already seeing some in-person instruction, according to the most current data from Burbio's School Opening Tracker. The tracker, which aggregates school and community calendars across the country, gathers data from 1,200 school districts, including the 200 largest, in all 50 states. It measures traditional in-person instruction and hybrid in-person and virtual learning, as well as schools using only virtual learning, which is the way 36% of students are being taught.

The CBS News story also states, "The Biden administration plans to roll out school reopening guidelines this week, but the nation's schools may have already met the White House's stated goal to 'safely reopen' a majority of K-8 schools."

Susan Crabtree Hennebury, White House correspondent for RealClearPolitics, cited another data group in reporting, "This graph shows that we are already close to meeting or have already surpassed Biden's 100-day goal of more than 50% of public schools open to in-classroom learning at least 1 day a wk. --7,187 (51%) of districts offering hybrid learning. (as of 02/01)."

Meanwhile, The Federalist accused Biden of bowing to pressure from teachers unions — a significant donation source to Democrats who have given adamant pushback against returning to the classroom in several major U.S. cities including Chicago.

Anything else?

The New York Post noted:

The bombshell revelation that Biden's plan would only resume in-person learning for half the schools and as little as one day per week comes after his own CDC director said in-person classes can be held safely without staff receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

But Psaki last week rejected Rochelle Walensky's comments, bizarrely claimed that the CDC chief had spoken in her "personal capacity," and said the White House was waiting for final guidance.
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