Biden hits school-opening goal but leaves Black, Hispanic students behind

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Thursday cheered President Biden for meeting the goal of reopening a majority of K-8 schools within his first 100 days in office, but he also acknowledged Black and Hispanic students returned to school at lower rates than their White classmates.

The Education Department released data showing that 54% of the schools were open for full-time in-person learning in March. And 88% of schools were either open full-time or were offering a combination of in-person and remote education.

“Nothing can replace in-person learning, and thousands of schools have made that a reality for millions of students,” Mr. Cardona said in a statement.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, the top Republican on the House education committee, wasn’t impressed.

“Fifty-four percent is a failing grade in any classroom and we need to treat it as such,” said Mrs. Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who has criticized the administration for not pushing schools more strongly to reopen sooner.

While touting the meeting of the goal, Mr. Cardona acknowledged that the administration hasn’t been as successful in getting Black and other minority students back into class.

The latest numbers are an improvement to those earlier in the year. But while 51% of White fourth and eighth graders were in schools that are open full-time, that was true for only 31% of Black and 30% of students in those grades.

Twenty-eight percent of White students in those grades were in hybrid learning environments, in which they were able to go to class at least part of the time, compared to 20% of Black and Hispanic students.

Meanwhile, half of Black and Hispanic fourth and eighth graders were still completely learning remotely, compared to 21% of White students in those grades.

“While we’ve made important progress, I will not be satisfied until 100% of schools are safely open for full-time in-person learning for all students,” Mr. Cardona said.

“At the national and local level, we must act with urgency and bring every resource to bear to get more schools reopened full-time this spring and address the inequities that continue to persist in our classrooms and communities,” he said.

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