Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday dismantled Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s threat to cut off federal funding for schools that refuse to comply with President Trump’s demand to reinstate in-person classes in August amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
“Both you and the president have threatened to cut off funding for schools systems that don’t open fully in the fall,” Wallace explained during an interview with DeVos. “Are you and the president unilaterally going to cut off funding that’s been approved by Congress — and most of the money goes to disadvantaged students or students with disabilities?”
Wallace continued: “And secondly, isn’t cutting off funding exactly the wrong answer? Don’t you want to spend more money to make schools safer, whether it’s with plastic shields or health checks, various other systems?”
“Doesn’t it make more sense to increase funding for schools where it’s unsafe rather than cut off funding?” he asked.
DeVos doubled down on her threat to defund the education system.
“If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds,” the education secretary opined. “Then give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise.”
Wallace noted that a public health emergency is not the time to push a longtime Republican-led effort to favor private schools over public schools.
“You can’t do that!” the Fox News host said. “I know you guys support vouchers and that’s a reasonable argument but you can’t do that unilaterally, you have to do that through Congress.”
“Well, we’re looking at all the options because it’s a promise to the American people and their families,” DeVos remarked. “And we want to make sure that promise if followed through on.”
A recent CNN Fact Check notes that “Trump can’t unilaterally cut current federal funding for schools. However, he could possibly restrict some recent pandemic relief funding — which would likely be challenged in court — and refuse to sign future legislation for federal grants and bailouts for schools. Congress holds the power of the purse, and while Trump and his administration have previously proposed cutting federal grants for schools as well as the Education Department’s budget, Congress has continued to reject these proposals.”