Biden’s presidential campaign fear-mongered about school safety and then, once in office, he ignored high schools with catastrophic consequences for teenagers.
There’s a White House discourse emerging that one of President Joe Biden’s early successes was reopening schools. The tweet below was retweeted by White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain. And Klain himself has frequently boasted of Biden’s efforts to reopen schools.
The reality, though, is that while some prominent Democrats — especially in the Northeast — put a lot on the line to reopen schools, Biden’s rhetoric — and the rhetoric of those around him — was unhelpful toward achieving the goal of reopening schools during the 2020–2021 academic year. (Yes, the Biden administration made a large pot of money available in spring 2021, but state and local decisions about reopening schools were almost all made before that money was announced.)
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo — the former governor of Rhode Island — was something of a Democratic school reopening superstar. Raimondo’s efforts were covered here, here, and here in the New York Times. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont also directed more attention to reopening schools than many other Democrats, although some cities in his state struggled to reopen in a timely fashion. Furthermore, Chicago and New York Mayors Lori Lightfoot and Bill de Blasio spent significant political capital to reopen schools in their cities as quickly as possible, despite challenging labor issues and complicated community views.
At the same time that many of these Democrats were working to reopen their schools and convince families to send their children back, Biden’s presidential campaign was arguing it was unsafe to reopen schools. The election year narrative was basically the following: Donald…