S.C. superintendent: Decisions on reopening schools shouldn’t be made by ‘bureaucrats’ in DC

Updated: Jul. 14, 2020 at 1:49 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA S.C. (WCSC) - State Superintendent Molly Spearman said on Monday that the decision to reopen South Carolina schools will be not be swayed by pressure from the federal government.

Over the past few days, President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have threatened to cut federal funds to schools that don’t reopen. In South Carolina, 10-percent of the budget comes from those funds, totaling millions of dollars.

“Education is a state and local issue. To say that everybody has to return back immediately in the same old way in school, those kind of decisions should not be made by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.,” Spearman said. “Those decisions and what we’re doing in South Carolina are best made here in South Carolina.”

She then said the decision over funding isn’t even made by Trump or DeVos.

“I know that that decision about federal funds comes from Congress, and I can’t imagine our congressional delegation ever voting to take away funds for the most vulnerable children in South Carolina, the largest percentage of federal funds go to help special needs students, children in poverty,” Spearman said. “I can’t believe that Congress would ever do that so I’m not concerned about that and that would not sway my decision.”

Spearman then said the decision to reopen or not will be based on information from the state’s department of health and the CDC.

She does believe in-person classes will resume next month.

“There will be children in school in August. Many of them will be face-to-face,” Spearman said. “As I’m learning, it’s about half and half. Some parents really want to keep their children at home and choose a virtual experience. Others will want them to face-to-face experience, and we’re going to make sure that’s offered for them.”

The state’s Department of Education has also ordered almost 500,000 masks for teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. Each worker will get five to use and then wash.

“I made a statement last week that I stand by. If I were the ruler, I would ask everybody require face mask but certainly that’s not my decision,” Spearman said. “It is our expectation, however, that when a child gets on the school bus in the morning, that they have on a mask.”

Spearman also said that every child has a free virtual option statewide and many districts are offering their own. She does expect all districts to offer in-person classes for the children of parents who them back in school.

The state has not yet heard back from the United States’ Department of Education after requesting a testing waiver. Spearman said two other states have been denied.

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