Schumer Tells Trump, DeVos 'Stop Threatening' Schools Over Reopening, Funds

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to "stop threatening" to withhold federal funding from schools that refuse to reopen amid a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Senate minority leader wrote on social media on Sunday night that the administration must help schools feel safe and prepared to reopen when students return in the fall—and give them more money to do so.

Posting on Twitter, Schumer said: "President Trump and Secretary DeVos: We all want our schools to re-open. Stop threatening to take away their funding, and get to work helping them! If we want them to open safely for our teachers and students, our schools and child care providers need MORE federal funding."

The top Senate Democrat warned the administration against threats to defund schools after DeVos told Fox News her department was "seriously" looking at withholding federal funding from those that refuse to reopen.

Asked if the Department of Education was considering freezing funds to schools that remained closed, DeVos said: "We are looking at this very seriously. This is a very serious issue across the country.

"Kids have got to continue learning, schools have got to open up. There has got to concerted effort to address the needs of all kids, and adults who are fearmongering and making excuses have simply got to stop doing it, and turn their attention on what is right for students and for their families."

Earlier in the interview, the education secretary said there was "no reason to withhold full-time education" and accused some adults of being "more interested in their own issues" than those faced by students.

Trump repeated the education secretary's threat on Wednesday last week, tweeting that he could cut off funding if schools were not reopened.

At a press briefing later that same day, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the administration would increase education funding in the next coronavirus bailout package, but said money would be directed to students instead of closed school districts.

While the power of the purse lies with Congress, limiting the president's ability to cut off funding to schools, Trump could still take some actions against districts refusing to reopen during the pandemic.

CNN reported last week that the president could potentially put a block on coronavirus relief funding set out in the CARES Act passed at the end of March.

On Sunday, DeVos told CNN's State of the Union that schools must develop their own individual plans on how to handle a COVID-19 outbreak should one occur, rather than rely on any guidance from the education department.

"You know there's really good examples that have been utilized in the private sector and elsewhere, also with front-line workers and hospitals and all of that data and all of that information and all those examples can be referenced by those school leaders," DeVos said. "They can figure out what is right for their specific situation."

The Department of Education has been asked for comment.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images