White House Walks Back Promise to Open Schools in 100 Days

White House press secretary Jen Psaki
Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki / Getty Images
February 9, 2021

The White House on Tuesday qualified its promise to reopen schools in President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, saying the administration wants "some" in-person learning "at least one day a week." 

When Axios reporter Hans Nichols pressed White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Biden’s definition of opening schools, she defined "in-person teaching" as "teaching at least one day a week" in most schools. 

"His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools—so more than 50 percent—open by day 100 of his presidency, and that means some teaching in classrooms," Psaki said. "Teaching at least one day a week in the majority of schools by day 100."

Biden’s 100-day agenda included prioritizing the reopening of America’s 13,000 school districts during the coronavirus pandemic despite resistance from teachers' unions. Psaki claimed the White House is still waiting on full CDC guidelines to be "put out publicly and concluded" before determining where to direct resources for school districts such as rapid testing. 

The White House distanced itself from CDC director Rochelle Walensky last week after she said that vaccinating teachers is not required to safely reopen schools for face-to-face learning. Psaki claimed Walensky had spoken "in her personal capacity" and insisted the White House wait for further guidance. 

While many of the country’s largest teachers’ unions backed Biden during his 2020 presidential run—and teachers broke donation records to support the president—they have led the resistance to return to the classroom. Many unions have demanded that all teachers receive the vaccine before teaching students in person and have claimed without evidence that returning to the classroom is unsafe. An American Academy of Pediatrics study from January found that transmission of the virus in schools is "extremely rare."