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Local leaders react to President Trump's threat to cut federal funding

President Donald Trump
Posted at 4:49 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 19:49:19-04

KERN COUNTY, Calif. — President Trump as of late has been adamant about schools reopening, with the president tweeting this morning that he may cut funding if schools do not open. 23ABC spoke with a local leader who said that would hurt schools in three big ways.

“Low-income students, students who do not speak English as a home language, and teacher training, those are the three things that will suffer," said Kelly Richers, the Superintendent of the Wasco Union Elementary School District.

Richers says roughly 9% of his funding comes from the U.S. government. He says his district will only have students attend class one day a week come fall in an effort to minimize the number of kids in class, and maximize the amount of social distancing. He says the decision not to run in-person classes full time is a no brainer.

“For health reasons, it is not a viable solution to have all students report back to school when we were all sent home under the exact same situation," he said.

President Donald Trump disagrees though. On Wednesday the president tweeting his belief that many countries have opened schools without issue, and that he may cut federal funding if schools are not open. Trump did not announce any specific plans, but Governor Gavin Newsom today saying, even if the president did have a plan, he wouldn't be interested in hearing it.

“I am not worried about the latest tweets and I could give you nauseum examples of why I concluded that that’s not the issue," Newsom said.
“Local school districts are looking to return to in-person instruction to the extent possible," said Robert Meszaros, a Communications Director for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

Meszaros says finding the right solution for this school year will not be simple. The Rosedale Union School District asked 3,000 families about what their prefered model for learning would be in the upcoming school year. 68 percent saying they desire a traditional learning environment, 8 percent prefer a full-time distanced model, and 24 percent preferring a hybrid.

And while the president has not given clear direction as to how he thinks schools should reopen, Meszaros saying the districts are doing their best to take everyone’s opinions into consideration.

“On one hand you have to ensure the safety of everyone involved, but on the other hand you have to make sure that the educational, and social-emotional needs of your students are met," he said.

Even if Trump takes actual steps to take away funding, Richers estimates that action will be in litigation with congress through at least this year, and would not affect any school funding until 2021.