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Sen Rounds and Rep Johnson Talk Back to School Challenges


President Trump is encouraging public schools to reopen in the fall after many closed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week on Twitter he threatened removing federal funding from districts that don’t resume face-to-face instruction. Monday, one of the president’s economic advisors told FOX Business he’d consider additional funding for districts that do reopen.

South Dakota U.S. Senator Mike Rounds and Representative Dusty Johnson touched on the matter during a presentation Monday afternoon. 

Senator Rounds and Representative Johnson were featured guests during a Facebook Live event for the Downtown Sioux Falls Rotary Club. When asked if the president’s threat against funding was the best strategy, Rounds says it was more about sending a clear message in favor of returning to school.

“And I think the vast majority of the schools are gonna reopen," he says. "They’re gonna try to get the kids back in. I don’t think it’s gonna be an issue.”

Rounds goes on to say stopping federal assistance wouldn’t impact state aid or any other funding measures.

“Which one of the reasons why I would love to get rid of the US Department of Education. I’d love to see it go away and send the money back to the local school districts to begin with, and I think Secretary DeVos has had a lot of that same attitude. But I think at this stage of the game schools need to reopen. I talked to superintendents, they’re trying really hard to do it correctly. Let’s do it safely.”

Representative Johnson agrees that students should return to in-person classes as long as it’s safe to do so.

“But I don’t think the feds should punish schools, school districts who decide to go a different route," he says.  "And I certainly don’t think we should be punishing parents and families that choose to go a different route.”

Johnson acknowledges the unique challenges administrators face as they consider safety measures.

“You’re not really gonna have people singing in chorus. That’s not a best practice with that kind of expelling the air. Well, P.E.’s gonna be a lot more difficult when you look at the risky activities. Playing with a common ball, that’s actually pretty high up on the list. That’s like a seven on a ten-point scale.”

Johnson and Rounds are on recess and returning to D.C. next week. They plan to have a fourth Congressional coronavirus relief package finalized by the end of July.