President Joe Biden is directing the Education Department to “use all available tools” to combat Republican governors whose state policies prohibit Covid-19 mitigation strategies like masking in the classroom.
Biden, in a memo sent Wednesday to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, said the Education Department must take action to ensure governors and other officials are allowing a safe return to in-person learning and “not standing in the way of local leaders making such preparations.”
“Our priority must be the safety of students, families, educators, and staff in our school communities,” Biden wrote. “Nothing should interfere with this goal.”
Cardona, in an interview with The New York Times, signaled that he could use the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to prevent states from banning mask wearing in schools. The department could launch civil rights investigations for school districts if their policies impede students' access to education.
“We're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” Biden said during an address on Wednesday.
“Some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Biden said. “Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They're setting a dangerous tone.”
Juan Perez Jr. contributed to this report.
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