Philly superintendent says Trump’s threat to cut funding will not sway city’s back-to-school plan

Mike DeNardo
July 09, 2020 - 1:50 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite isn’t giving much thought to President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold funds from schools that don't bring all students back to classrooms this fall.   

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The district receives less than 10% of its revenue from the federal government, and Hite said the back-to-school plan he expects to release next week will be based on science and safety.

Hite told reporters Thursday he’s not going to be influenced by the president's promise to cut funding, which the president doesn't even control.

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“You haven’t given any guidance up to date, and now you come in and say, ‘Just bring everybody back,’ to me, it just validates the fact that there’s a credibility issue there,” he said.

On Tuesday, Trump argued some districts are keeping schools closed not because of the risks from the coronavirus, but for political reasons on the Democratic front, according to the Associated Press.

“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” he said at a White House discussion on school plans for the fall. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

Speakers at the White House’s round-table argued that the risks of keeping students at home outweigh any risks tied to the coronavirus, saying students need access to meal programs and mental and behavioral health services.

“We want to reopen the schools,” Trump said. “Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It's time to do it.”

“Children’s mental health and social development must be as much of a priority as physical health,” first lady Melania Trump added. “The same is true for parents. Many will be forced to make stressful choices between caring for their children and going back to work.”

Hite said Trump’s comments reveal a lack of understanding of the complex issues that school districts must confront as they plan for the fall.

“If there was credibility, there would have been guidance early on,” Hite said, “so that states aren't trying to each do their own thing, or districts are each doing their own thing to get children back.”

The School District of Philadelphia is basing its plan on advice from the city and state health departments, and up-to-date CDC guidance.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. © Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.