Local educators react to President Trump’s push to reopen schools

MID-SOUTH — Today, President Donald Trump posted a tweet that could affect educators and students directly. The President threatened to cut funding for schools, saying he may withhold funding from schools that don't resume classes this fall.

If President Trump cut funding – that would majorly impact local schools. To put things in perspective, take Shelby County Schools’ budget: They’re working with a $1.6 billion budget. But the federal governments provide 18.5 percent of that, which, after crunching the numbers, comes out to nearly $300 million that would be stripped away.

Tuesday, the superintendent of Shelby County Schools tweeted, in part, “pressure can burst pipes or produce diamonds….however pressure will not push me to open schools if they are unsafe.”

The spokeswoman for Shelby County Schools told FOX13 that they don’t typically comment on tweets and that the school district will continue following local and state guidance. The spokeswoman for Germantown Municipal School District said they’ve been planning to, and still plan to, start school August 6th. West Memphis, Arkansas Schools are slated to open August 13th. Finally, FOX13 reached out to Desoto County Schools in Mississippi, but they haven’t yet responded to our question about President Trump’s tweet and whether their plans have changed.

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But just how legal is President Trump’s threat to cut funding? FOX13 asked University of Memphis law professor Steven Mulroy for his take.

“It does not seem likely that President Trump would have the unilateral authority to do that just by the stroke of a pen,” Mulroy said.

He explained that the federal government can place conditions on the receipt of federal funds and states or localities would have to follow them. However, that would have to be done through congress, and Mulroy said there must be legislation to do it.

“I am not aware of any legislation that would apply in this situation,” said Mulroy. “So, absent some specific preexisting statute, the president couldn’t just do it by himself.”

Mulroy said there’s always a possibility that buried deep in the federal code, there’s a statute that could be applied to this unique, coronavirus situation. But he added that if he were a lawyer for a school district, he would likely tell them they don’t need to worry about this.

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