US President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut funding for schools that did not open in the fall and criticized a federal health agency's guidelines for reopening schools as "very tough and expensive."
The Republican president, who is seeking reelection in November, accused Democrats of wanting to keep schools closed for political reasons, despite an increase in coronavirus cases across the country.
"The Dems think it would be politically bad for them if the US schools would open before the November elections, but it is important for the children and families. Can cut funding if they are not open!" Trump said on Twitter, noting that schools in some European countries are reopening with no problems.
It was not clear what specific federal aid the Republican President was going to do. States are responsible for primary and secondary education under the U.S. Constitution, but the federal government provides additional funds.
Trump also targeted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country's health protection agency, whose director sits on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
"I disagree with @CDCgov about their very strict and expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them to open, ask schools to do very impractical things. I'll meet them! !! " Trump said in a separate Twitter post.
The White House has not explained which CDC guidelines Trump had problems with.
The CDC has recommended a number of considerations for schools, including testing, dividing students into small groups, serving packed lunches in classrooms instead of cafeterias, and minimizing the division of school supplies. It was recommended to install sneeze guards and partitions if social distance is not possible and to keep the seats at least one meter apart.
"It's time for us to get our kids back to school," said Vice President Mike Pence after a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at the Department of Education on Wednesday.
Pence said the CDC was planning to issue new guidelines for schools, stressing that the agency's guidelines were not intended to replace the considerations and decisions of local schools.
Trump held meetings on the reopening of schools in the White House on Tuesday, saying he would put pressure on the governors to open schools in the fall.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that the federal government has no authority over schools and his state will announce plans to reopen in the first week of August.
Economic and conservative groups have considered safe school reopening important to get parents back to work and revitalize the US economy.
Educators say socialization and other benefits such as school feeding programs are vital. Experts have also shown that online learning is widening the gap between poorer and wealthier Americans who have better access to technology.
However, the alarming increase in cases in the United States has raised concerns about the increased risk of the virus spreading through children to vulnerable adults at home as well as older teachers and school staff.
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday he plans to reopen state schools in the fall, but reserves the right to "optimize it if it means saving lives."
In Los Angeles, the top health official said the planned reopening of elementary and secondary schools in the fall was at risk. "At this point, every school district must have plans to continue 100% distance learning," said Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, to the officials in a private conference call reported by the Los Angeles Times.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)