On Wednesday, President Joe Biden revealed that he is asking Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to pursue states that ban mask mandates in schools, and if necessary, take “legal action” against them. This comes amid a crisis happening in Afghanistan.
The president’s remarks about mask mandates in schools on Wednesday came while the military continues to struggle in evacuating Americans and allies from the Kabul Airport after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. State Department communications were telling U.S. citizens in the middle-eastern country to “consider” going to the airport for evacuation. However, they also mentioned that the U.S. government can’t ensure their safe passage across the rest of the city.
Biden Avoids Talking About the Crisis in Afghanistan
During his remarks at the White House, the president said: “Today, I am directing the Secretary of Education – an educator himself – to take additional steps to protect our children. This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal actions, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.” He did not entertain questions nor made remarks about the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
“As I’ve said before, if you aren’t going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who is trying,” the president went on to say. “We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”
The president cited one example of the course of action Cardona could take: using money from the COVID stimulus to cover a local official’s pay that a governor cut over a mask mandate.
However, masks remain controversial, especially in the context of use among young children.
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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a governor who banned local districts from requiring masks, accused the president of focusing on the wrong issue with his remarks on Wednesday.
“While you have all this stuff going on with Afghanistan, obviously all of the stuff at the southern border… one of the biggest border disasters in the history of our country, inflation, gas prices, and what does he do?” DeSantis stated. “He is obsessed with having the government force kindergarteners to wear masks all day in school.”
A fact sheet about Wednesday’s remarks included Biden’s instruction to Cardona. It revealed that the president would tell him to “use all available tools to ensure that governors and other officials are providing a safe return to in-person learning for the nation’s children.”
“All schools can and should open safely this Fall for full-time, in-person learning,” but with appropriate safety precautions, the fact sheet went on to mention.