OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said President Donald Trump’s comments earlier this week pressuring governors to open schools in the fall were “hogwash” and he said the state will not be bullied into making potentially unsafe decisions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Decisions about school and how to have it, onsite or otherwise, will remain with the state of Washington,” the Democrat said at a news conference Thursday. “These are Washington students and Washington state has the legal authority to make decisions about their education.”
On Tuesday, Trump argued that some states are keeping schools closed not because of the risks from the coronavirus pandemic but for political reasons.
“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” Trump said at a White House discussion on school plans for the fall. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”
And on Wednesday, Trump threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall.
Inslee, who ran for his party’s presidential nomination last year and has sparred with Trump before, insisted Thursday the state is “not going to be bullied.
“If it’s necessary, we have the courts available,” he said.
Inslee said he is meeting with state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal next week to discuss how schools will approach fall instruction.
“I want schools to open in a manner that maximizes learning while simultaneously is safe for our students and wider community,” Inslee said.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Nearly 38,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Washington state and at least 1,394 have died.