President Donald Trump has declared that he won’t agree to a new coronavirus relief package before the Nov. 3 election, a potentially big setback for schools and educators who’ve hoped for months for additional aid from Washington.
In a series of tweets Tuesday, Trump said he told administration officials involved in coronavirus talks with Congress to stop negotiating with lawmakers. He said that “immediately after I win,” he would restart talks to pass a relief bill focused on “hardworking Americans and Small Business.” He also attacked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., by saying she had not engaged in COVID-19 relief talks in good faith.
Trump did not say what he planned to do if he loses the presidential election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. If he loses the election, his defeat could remove a key motivation for agreeing to a deal. And that might leave schools without the assurance of more federal relief as they start their spring terms.
...request, and looking to the future of our Country. I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business. I have asked...
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
In subsequent tweets, he said his priority would be making sure the Senate confirms his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, and that the economy is doing “very well.”
However, later on Tuesday, he struck a somewhat different tone on Twitter by urging Congress to approve additional aid for airlines and small businesses, and to pass a bill for new stimulus checks of $1,200 per person. He did not mention aid to schools.
Education officials and others in the K-12 community have looked to the federal government for months to help schools reopen safely, provide internet access to students learning remotely, and in general try to mitigate the damage to students and schools caused by the pandemic. The CARES Act, which Trump signed into law in late March, provided more than $13 billion in aid to K-12 schools, but educators and others have said much more is necessary.
Since May, however, numerous coronavirus relief bills from Democrats and Republicans—all of which have provided aid to K-12 yet have differed on key details—have stalled on Capitol Hill. And ongoing talks between Pelosi and the Trump administration have not produced a breakthrough. House passage of a coronavirus proposal from Democrats last week didn’t give discussions a big boost either.
The nation’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, said Trump’s announcement meant the president had abandoned schools:
We expect our leaders to lead, not give up.
Trump just gave up--again--on our schools.
He may have thrown in the towel, but we won’t. Our students and their families are far too important. https://t.co/bMe1QXpbR5
— NEA (@NEAToday) October 6, 2020
And Pelosi invoked “poor children” in need of help when she slammed Trump for deserting negotiations on Tuesday:
President Trump has shown his true colors: walking away from coronavirus relief negotiations and refusing to give real help to poor children, the unemployed, and America’s hard working families. https://t.co/gic4yuVsTB
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 6, 2020
Although Trump’s Tuesday tweets cast the economy in a positive light, schools are worried about the looming plunge in their funding, as state and local governments feel the effects of COVID-19 on businesses. While the unemployment rate dipped in the latest federal jobs report (after 700,000 people left the labor force), there are also signs that the economy’s recovery is slowing down.
Photo: President Donald Trump walks out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to return to the White House after receiving treatments for covid-19, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Bethesda, Md. (Evan Vucci/AP)