WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s demand that US schools reopen completely this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic is central to an emerging reelection strategy seeking to resuscitate his blatant support in critical suburbs of the nation.
FILE PHOTO: The entrance to Public School 159 is seen in the Queens District of New York City, New York, USA, July 8, 2020. REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton
Trump in recent weeks has taken positions on burning issues that his campaign hopes will appeal to suburban voters, particularly women, who have been upset with the Republican president since his 2016 election and continue to drift away as the virus breaks out in the whole country and the economy sputters
In addition to aggressively lobbying for students to return to classrooms – “Schools should be open in the fall,” he tweeted on Friday – Trump warned of rising urban crime rates and threats to civil order in the wake of the protests. for racial injustice while pointing to The Vibrant Stock Market as a marker of economic health.
The message amounts to a new effort to position Trump as the candidate for public security and social and economic stability, several people close to the campaign said.
So far, there is little sign that the approach is working. Trump follows his alleged Democratic opponent in the November 3 elections, Joe Biden, in both national and state polls.
A Reuters / Ipsos poll conducted last week found that in the nation’s suburbs, only 36% said they approved of Trump, while 59% disapproved. Among suburban women, three out of 10 approve of Trump, while four out of 10 men support the president.
Suburbs in key electoral states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida are full of wealthy voters, and many have large and robust public school systems.
Shannon K. Alsop, a 39-year-old doctor and mother of two school-age children in prosperous Bucks County outside Philadelphia, said Trump is politicizing the reopening of America’s schools because he believes it will benefit his campaign.
“At the end of the day, all parents just want our families to be safe,” said Alsop. “The question is, can we open our schools and make them safe? I want that decision to be based on research and science. I don’t trust the president to make that call on us. ”
The reopening of K-12 schools is seen by the Trump campaign as a key to an economic recovery, allowing parents working with young children to be more productive while also addressing concerns that distance learning is detrimental to some students.
Public schools also offer meals and other social services for at-risk children.
“It is about the economy. It’s about the education of their children, “said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the Trump campaign.” Parents are extremely frustrated. ”
“TIME TO RETURN TO NORMAL”
At a White House event at schools last week, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argued for his opening in contravention of guidelines set by government public health experts. The president has threatened to strip schools of federal funds if they don’t comply.
School districts across the country are taking a cautious approach to reopening as COVID-19 cases in the United States reached the 3 million mark last week. Many districts plan to offer a combination of in-person and online learning, and say they will require masks and social distancing at school.
Some parents want to see schools reopen.
Virginia Lee, 37, a registered nurse in Bucks County, said that while she does not support Trump, she agrees with his push for schools. She said her two school-age children learned little from the virtual instruction provided during the spring closings.
“I don’t usually agree with anything about Trump. I agree that schools need to reopen, “said Lee.” It’s time to get back to normal. ”
Bucks County was divided very closely in favor of Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the Democratic candidate won by a 0.8 percentage point margin over Trump.
Biden’s position on the reopening has been largely in line with that of the teacher unions supporting his candidacy, which have criticized Trump’s demands as dangerous. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, warned last week that a complete reopening of schools could lead to an exodus of educators.
The former vice president also wants schools to reopen, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said, “and has set out clear steps that would give schools the guidance, resources and support they need to do so.”
Joe Zepecki, a Democratic strategist and father who lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, said the problem “is growing more and more” in his community, but it is too nuanced for Trump to gain force.
“Parents absolutely want children to go back to school, but it is not a direct or dynamic way. The concerns are many and varied, “said Zepecki. “The president is looking for a resonant problem that he can hang on to, which is overwhelmingly popular and brings him back into the game. This is not like this.
Reports by James Oliphant in Washington and Jarrett Renshaw in Bucks County, Pennsylvania; Additional reporting by Chris Kahn; Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler Edition