Biden Dangles New Federal Funds For Schools That Defy Mask Mandate Bans
On Thursday, President Biden announced a series of actions aimed at getting control of the surging pandemic. Alongside new vaccine requirements for private businesses, he announced new steps to encourage K-12 schools to mandate masks for all, require vaccines for employees and step up testing for COVID-19.
Coronavirus safety measures like these have become political flashpoints, and nowhere more than in schools. There have been violent confrontations at school board meetings over mask requirements, and states including Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah have all tried to stop districts from requiring masks. This comes as the highly contagious delta variant is causing a rise in cases among young people, and those under 12 are still not eligible for vaccines.
The United States has a long tradition of local control and funding of its 13,000-odd school districts. The federal government has limited oversight powers, and provides around 8 % of total funds spent on public schools. However, the president seems to be leaning heavily on both the carrots and sticks he does have. The actions announced on Thursday include:
In addition, Biden's plan calls on states to require vaccines for all school employees. There was no reward or sanction explicitly attached to this effort. For now, the president is simply "asking" states to follow the example of places like California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
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