Updated Feb 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden on schools: "The goal will be 5 days a week"

US President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 16
President Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden on Tuesday sought to clarify what his administration means by promising to open schools in the first 100 days of his presidency, insisting that "the goal will be five days a week."

The big picture: Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden’s definition for open schools was in-classroom instruction by a teacher “at least one day a week.”

  • In a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Biden tried to reset the record, and appeared to blame his communications team.
  • “No that's not true. That's what was reported. That’s not true,” the president said, when asked about the one-day-a-week definition. “That was a mistake in the communications."

Why it matters: Republicans have pounced on Psaki's definition of open schools and accused Biden of backpedaling on his goal of reopening the majority of schools by the end of April.

  • Last week, Psaki also said that "the president will not rest until every school is open five days a week. That is our goal."
  • Tuesday, Biden also clarified why he changed his target from elementary, middle and high schools to just K-8.
    • "What I am talking about is, I said opening the majority of schools in K-8th grade, because they are the easiest to open, the most needed to be open because of the impact on children and families having to stay home."
    • "I think that we should be vaccinating teachers. We should move them up in the hierarchy," Biden added.

Flashback: Two weeks ago, some White House political advisers began to privately warn that Biden might not be able to meet his originally stated objective, Axios reported.

  • Republicans are trying to channel some suburban frustrations about virtual schooling into political anger, trying to cast Biden as a pawn of the teachers unions.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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