President Donald Trump has been a leading advocate for getting America’s schoolchildren back to their classrooms — even going so far as threatening to pull federal funding from schools that refuse to open this fall.
Last week, the president softened his demand that all schools open immediately, noting that some schools might need to delay reopening, but he’s not letting up on his overall push to get kids back to in-person learning.
Many local leaders, teachers, parents, politicians, and activists have been fighting Trump on his plan and accusing him of putting the health and welfare of teachers, students, and students’ families at risk for his political agenda.
But the president this week found that he had a well-known, influential ally in the push to reopen schools — and he’s not some conservative or Republican toady.
Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates told CNBC Tuesday that he believes the benefits for young kids returning to school outweigh the costs.
What did Gates say?
In an interview that aired on “Squawk Box” Tuesday, Gates was asked if he would send his own kids to school at this time. Gates responded that in-person classroom instruction is vital for young students, particularly elementary age, and that he supports reopening, despite the ongoing pandemic.
“I’m a big believer that for young children, the benefits in almost every location — particularly if you can protect the teachers well — the benefits outweigh the costs,” Gates said.
Though he believes face-to-face learning is important for middle and high schoolers, he did acknowledge that with older students, the effort to get them back in the classroom gets trickier.
He noted that when dealing with teenage students, parents and local policymakers should focus on their community’s desires and capabilities.
If the “locale” is not in, he said, “then you have to put massive effort into trying to get there to be continued learning online.”
Gates said his charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent millions promoting education, has “revamped” its efforts in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak and is focusing more on providing online instruction for students whose schools choose to remain closed.
“Our foundation has revamped our education work to really jump in and help out,” he said, “get those online capabilities up, make sure that minority students and low-income students aren’t suffering the most throughout all of this.”