Lightfoot To Trump: States And Cities Should Decide When And How To Reopen Schools

The mayor blasted the president’s Twitter demand for in-person instruction in the fall as a nonsensical federal directive.

Chicaog Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks in Chicago on Friday, March 20, 2020. On Wednesday, she pushed back against President Trump’s demand that schools open for in-person instruction this fall, saying it should be a local decision. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press
Chicaog Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks in Chicago on Friday, March 20, 2020. On Wednesday, she pushed back against President Trump’s demand that schools open for in-person instruction this fall, saying it should be a local decision. Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

Lightfoot To Trump: States And Cities Should Decide When And How To Reopen Schools

The mayor blasted the president’s Twitter demand for in-person instruction in the fall as a nonsensical federal directive.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted President Donald Trump today for demanding schools open for in-person instruction in the fall.

“It’s ironic because typically Republicans talk about states’ rights and localized control, but here’s one where the president’s trying to mandate from Washington, D.C. what the conditions should be on the ground across the country,” Lightfoot said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Lightfoot said the president’s push eliminates the option of using a hybrid model in the fall that mixes in-person and online instruction. The mayor’s comments came as the president fired off two tweets Wednesday morning calling the CDC’s new guidelines for reopening schools “very tough & expensive.” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday the CDC would be revising its guidelines to schools.

The president also threatened to withhold federal funds from districts that do not open their doors.

“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!” Trump wrote in one of the tweets.

The vast majority of public school funding comes from local taxpayers, not the federal government. Roughly 12% of Chicago Public Schools operating revenue comes from federal sources. But districts, including Chicago, are relying more on Washington this year for coronavirus relief money.

“I don’t put too much weight into what President Trump says particularly given his lack of leadership over the course of this pandemic,” Lightfoot said, but deferred to CPS when asked for specific details about Chicago schools reopening in September.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said earlier this month that a more concrete plan would be out in the coming weeks. The school district is still surveying families to find out their preferences for returning to school in the fall.

The survey asks parents to rank three scenarios: a full reopening with masks required and small group instruction; a partial reopening that allows certain students to attend on certain days, with remote learning on other days; or another hybrid option where students rotate between in-person and online classes to ensure smaller class sizes.

The survey also asks a series of optional questions about internet access, mental health, family employment and insurance coverage.

In early May, Lightfoot said she wanted to open schools in the fall. On Wednesday, she said it’s still too soon to make a firm decision about schools reopening in the fall.

“We don’t know, sitting here in July, what September is going to look like,” Lightfoot said.

Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow @beckyvevea.