(Reuters) - Democrat Joe Biden on Friday hammered President Donald Trump’s approach to reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting billions more in funding may be needed to educate children safely.
A five-part plan released by Biden’s campaign argued that children can only return to the classroom after summer recess once more measures are taken to stop the novel coronavirus and prepare schools for the risks.
That could include as much as $34 billion (£27 billion) more in federal aid than even Biden’s Democratic Party has already proposed to help school districts make modifications for social distancing, protective equipment, sanitation and upgrading internet broadband, Biden’s campaign said.
“The challenge facing our schools is unprecedented,” the campaign wrote. “President Trump has made it much worse.”
Trump campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said Biden is “beholden” to teachers’ unions. “Democrats, led by Joe Biden, have done nothing but fearmonger and call for schools and offices to continue to be indefinitely closed,” he said.
The issue of school reopenings is quickly becoming key to the Nov. 3 election, with both candidates playing to parents struggling to balance their duties to employers and their families since schools closed.
Trump has been pushing for schools to reopen in the fall, allowing parents to return to work and revive the economy.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday he expects the next coronavirus aid bill to provide a “significant amount of money” to help schools reopen safely.
School districts nationwide are taking a cautious approach. The coronavirus has infected more than 3.5 million Americans and killed nearly 140,000, more than any other country.
Only one in four Americans think it is safe for schools to reopen, and four in 10 parents said they would likely keep their children home if classes resume, a July 14-15 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler