MILWAUKEE (AP) – President Joe Biden promises that a majority of elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, reaffirming his original goal after his administration was criticized when Assistants said schools would be considered open if they held in-person learning one day a week.
Biden’s comments, at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, marked his clearest statement yet on reopening schools. Biden pledged in December to reopen “the majority of our schools” within his first 100 days, but has since faced growing questions about how he would define and achieve that goal, school districts operating under a patchwork of different virtual learning and in-person arrangements nationwide.
“I said opening the majority of kindergarten to eighth grade schools because they are the easiest to open, the most necessary to be open in terms of impact on children and families who have to stay at home “Biden said.
He said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s comments earlier this month that one day a week of face-to-face learning would accomplish its goal were “a miscommunication”.
When asked when the country would see Kindergarten to Grade 8 revert to in-person learning five days a week, Biden said, “We’ll be close to that by the end of the first 100 days.” He said he expected many schools to lobby to stay open all summer, but suggested the reopening would take longer for high schools due to a higher risk of contagion among young people. older students.
The town hall addressed a series of issues related to the coronavirus, from protections for small businesses to the administration’s vaccination plans. Biden said that by the end of July there would be 600 million doses of the vaccine available, enough to immunize every American.
But with many of his responses, he sought to emphasize the need for funding to achieve his goals. City Hall aimed to sell its $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid program directly to the American people, as part of an effort in part to pressure Republican lawmakers and refocus Congress on adoption Bill’s speedy now that his predecessor’s impeachment trial is behind him.
Biden stressed how much he wanted to go beyond Donald Trump on Tuesday night, repeatedly refusing to talk about the former president and at one point saying: “I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump.”
“For the past four years, all that’s been in the headlines has been Trump. For the next four years, I want to make sure all the news is about the American people, ”he said, to audience applause.
During mayoral, Biden also gave insight into the moderate stance that helped him win purple states like Wisconsin in 2020. He resisted a questioner request for his administration to embrace l progressive goal of forgiving $ 50,000 in student loan debt, reiterating its commitment to forgive only $ 10,000. He suggested that one of the ways to improve policing was to provide more funding for police services, going against calls by some progressives to fund police. He also said he was optimistic about passing a law to study police reforms.
He also weighed in on the immigration bill that his administration is expected to unveil this week. Biden asserted that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is essential for any bill he supports, but also suggested that it would be open to a piecemeal approach to immigration reform rather than to a comprehensive bill, if necessary.
“There are things I would do on my own, but not at the expense of saying I will never do the other,” he said.
Biden seemed to be looking forward to his first opportunity for extended interaction with ordinary Americans since the inauguration. Comforting a second-grader who couldn’t go to school and was worried about contracting the virus, Biden told the girl that children are less likely to be infected, adding, “I don’t care. Don’t worry, baby, I promise you. “
He also offered an intimate description of life in the White House, expressing unease at the thought of being taken care of by staff. With about a month in the White House under his belt, Biden joked that he woke up in the morning, looked at his wife, Jill, and asked, “Where the hell are we?”
Biden pointed out that his massive virus aid bill already enjoys broad public support, and noted that some analysts have come out in favor of large government spending to help stimulate the economy.
“Now is the time we should be spending,” Biden said.
The House is expected to vote on the measure next week.
Biden landed on a slippery, snow-capped tarmac in sub-freezing weather about 90 minutes before the evening’s schedule. He answered questions from a small audience of Democrats, Republicans and Independents invited to a small, socially distant gathering at the historic Pabst Theater.
Biden’s trip to Wisconsin, a political battlefield state he narrowly won last November, comes as coronavirus infection rates and deaths decline after the nation suffered both months the deadliest so far in the pandemic. The White House is also reporting an increase in vaccine delivery across the country after a slow start.
But Biden stressed the nation still has a long way to go as thousands of Americans die every day in America’s worst public health crisis in a century. The virus has killed more than 485,000 people, and emerging new variants complicate response efforts.
The Biden administration is trying to get enough Americans vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity” and allow life to return to some semblance of normalcy. But it is not known when the vaccination will be widely available to Americans.
Biden’s team is hoping the funding provided in the coronavirus aid bill will help speed up vaccine production and distribution. His team also argues that the federal government must keep the tap on government aid open to help those who are suffering economically and to bring the country back to pre-pandemic employment levels.
But many GOP lawmakers continue to bristle over the price of a package that calls for sending $ 1,400 checks to most Americans as well as assistance for businesses, schools, homeowners and residents. tenants.
By Aamer Madhani and Alexandra Jaffe