L.A. Defies Trump to Start Academic Year With Virtual Classes

Los Angeles, home to America’s second-largest school district, and San Diego said they will start the academic year with online classes amid the resurgent coronavirus.

“The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise,” Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said in a statement. “Last week was the worst yet in the Los Angeles area.”

The districts’ decisions come after just one day after America’s top education official Adds lindownplayed the risk of reopening schools in the fall — a top priority for Donald Trump. The president has suggested that funding could be pulled from schools that don’t comply. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Monday the president would be willing to consider increasing funding for those that reopen schools.

“If schools aren’t going to open, they shouldn’t get the funds,” Betsy DeVos, U.S. secretary of education, said on Fox News. “Give it to the families.”

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California Governor Gavin Newsom applauded “the leadership of those districts for leaning in and recognizing their responsibility at this moment.”

He also said that on Friday he signed off on new guidance to schools concerning masks, contact sports, choirs, busing and furthering distance learning. He didn’t give details, though.

Los Angeles County has seen coronavirus cases surge recently. On Sunday, the county said 9% of people are testing positive and reported another 18 deaths and 3,322 new cases. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, last week said the area is “seeing community spread and hospitalizations like we saw in late April.”

Instruction will resume on Aug. 18 in Los Angeles and Aug. 31 for the San Diego Unified School District, according to Monday’s joint release. “The federal government must provide schools with the resources we need to reopen in a responsible manner,” the statement said.

Beutner didn’t address the Trump administration’s threat to withhold money, and a spokesman for the district declined to comment. Most school funding in America comes from state and local sources, though the federal government supplements with money for nutrition and special education, among other things.

Beutner said “there’s little research to back up” claims that “children are less likely to carry the virus or they may suffer less severe medical consequences if they get the disease.”

Los Angeles’s virus-positivity rate, he added, is “well above the level of 5% the World Health Organization guidelines say is appropriate for communities to reopen. The comparison with New York should also be a cautionary note for all of us in Los Angeles.”

— With assistance by David R Baker

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