More battles lie ahead after another school shooting

Gun Rights

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WHAT’S NEXT AFTER UVALDE? American school officials are looking ahead to the next threats facing their children and staff as congressional action to address gun violence seems destined to sputter in Washington, D.C.

President Joe Biden on Monday said he believes there’s a “realization” among “rational Republicans” that the nation “can’t continue like this,” after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“I know that it makes no sense to be able to purchase something that can fire up to 300 rounds,” he added.

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Yet the president also addressed his limitations, even as he told reporters he “can’t dictate this stuff.”

“Any executive action I can take, I’ll continue to take,” Biden said. “But I can’t outlaw a weapon. I can’t, you know, change the background checks.”

A top teachersunion plans to protest Republican senators during the coming days.

The Department of Justice will meanwhile investigate law enforcement’s chaotic response to a rifle-toting gunman’s horrific act on Robb Elementary’s classrooms. The goal, the DOJ said, is an independent account of police actions that will identify “lessons learned and best practices” to help first responders prepare for and respond to the next attack.

“I hate to bring up the idea of copycats because it’s particularly frightening,” Odis Johnson, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, recently told your host.

“But my concern is that we’ve created an environment that’s particularly enabling for these types of acts to occur,” he said. “Until we get better at addressing the situation, people will see this as something that happens here and something that is an option for them. That’s a really bad situation for us to be in socially.”

IT’S TUESDAY, MAY 31. WELCOME TO WEEKLY EDUCATION. A higher proportion of children with acute hepatitis of an unknown cause have developed liver failure compared with earlier reported cases, the World Health Organization said. The WHO has received reports of 650 probable cases from 33 countries and assessed the risk of the disease spreading globally as moderate.

Reach out with tips to today’s host at [email protected] and also my colleagues Michael Stratford ([email protected]) and Bianca Quilantan ([email protected]). And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.

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PROTESTS ON TAP — Beginning today, the American Federation of Teachers and allies, including activist David Hogg, will rally outside of Republican senators’ local offices to demonstrate support for updated gun laws. First on the list: Sens. Ted Cruz and Pat Toomey.

Cruz has been one favored target for outrage in the wake of Uvalde’s violence. A protester with Indivisible Houston confronted Cruz on Friday night, not long after the Texas Republican told supporters at a National Rifle Association gathering that the “real goal” of many politicians on the left “is disarming America.” Demonstrators will gather at Austin’s AFL-CIO office before marching to Cruz’s local office.

Toomey, meanwhile, is one of ten GOP senators to watch as Democrats press on with long-shot efforts to pass modest gunsafety legislation. The Pennsylvania Republican is retiring at the end of the current Congress and spearheaded failed legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in 2013 to expand background checks for gun purchases. A 2016 ad from a Michael Bloomberg-backed super PAC featured the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School’s principal speaking about Toomey’s commitment to stopping gun violence.

Educators and community members will hold a vigil outside Toomey’s office in Pittsburgh later this afternoon, the union said.


ARMING THE SCHOOLHOUSE — Starting this summer, a group of anonymous employees at North Texas Collegiate Academy campuses will begin taking part in a lightly regulated state program meant to deploy school staff as last-ditch guards against active shooters.

In light of last week’s tragic events in Uvalde, Superintendent Lisa Stanley wrote in a May 26 letter to families, “I also want to assure all families and stakeholders that highly-trained staff members stand prepared to protect our students and our staff.”

“If an intruder entered your home with ill-intent, you would do everything in your power to protect your family,” Stanley wrote. “Our staff and students deserve that same protection and we are committed to providing that.”

The state has allowed teachers to sign up as armed campus “marshals” since 2013 after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in addition to adopting the school “guardian” program used by the North Texas school system.

​​Neither idea has seen enormous participation rates in Texas, your host reports. The idea of gun-toting teachers still promises to harness renewed political urgency in the school safety debate, as a top Texas law enforcement official on Friday acknowledged failures in a plodding police response to this week’s violence.

WHERE GOVERNORS STAND — Following last week’s massacre, The Associated Press asked governors across the U.S. whether they believed their states have an obligation to reduce mass shootings and violence committed with guns and, if so, how.

Governors agreed they had a responsibility to try to do something. Democrats and Republicans alike mentioned the need to invest in mental health services and training to help people potentially prone to violent outbursts. The commonality generally ends after that. Democratic governors are amplifying calls for greater gun restrictions. Republican governors often emphasize more security at schools.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, during a speech Friday at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, denounced calls for gun control as “garbage” and embraced greater school security measures. “Why do we protect our banks, our stores and celebrities with armed guards but not our children? Are they not truly our greatest treasure?” Noem said.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa also laid out a variety of potential school safety steps while talking with reporters Friday. “It’s looking for ways to harden schools; it’s talking about having conversations about state resource officers,” she said, later adding: “Maybe a single entrance into the school system and making sure educators are trained.”

None of the Democratic governors who responded to The AP’s questions supported arming teachers or staff to deter or stop attacks. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers — a Democrat who is a former teacher, school superintendent and state education chief — said he’s concerned that arming teachers would make schools more dangerous.

“There’s not enough people to do it,” Evers said, “and I’m not sure we want to turn our learning institutions into armed camps.”

Higher Education

KEEP WAITING — The White House is moving ahead with a plan to cancel $10,000 of federal student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, POLITICO’s Michael Stratford and Eugene Daniels report, following months of pressure from progressives to act on the issue before the midterm elections.

The administration’s plan, which could still change before a formal announcement, would limit federal loan forgiveness to individuals who earn less than $150,000, Michael and Eugene report.

The income limits may help the White House fend off critics who say it would help some higher-earning Americans with student debt. But the policy could present a major implementation challenge for the Education Department, which doesn’t have access to income tax information for most federal student loan borrowers.

Department officials have previously warned the White House that any income limits would prevent them from automatically canceling the debt and require them to set up some type of application process for borrowers.

Several of the nation’s largest and most prominent labor unions backed sweeping loan forgiveness as the White House finalizes its plans.

White House officials had been eyeing an imminent announcement on the plan, sources told Michael and Eugene, but the shooting in Uvalde put those plans on hold.

Children’s Health

DECISION TIME — Schools mulling renewed mask mandates don’t need to wait for Covid-19 risk levels to increase in their community if outbreaks are already occurring on campus, according to updated Covid-19 operational guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as campuses begin summer break.

Another topline: The agency’s guidance says schools should consider adding masks and other prevention measures when CDC-defined risk levels indicate an increase in disease burden — “particularly if the level is medium or high.”

— “If a school or [early care and education program] is experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak, they should consider adding prevention strategies regardless of the Covid-19 Community Level,” the guidance adds.

That meansschools with virus-testing programs could increase testing frequency, regardless of their population’s vaccination status. “They may also put in place prevention strategies recommended at medium and high Covid-19 Community Levels (for example, masks) even if the community the school or ECE program is located in is at a lower Covid-19 Community Level,” the CDC said.

— “As we enter the summer, we need to take the lessons we’ve learned from this school year and continue to do what works to keep all kids and educators healthy,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement responding to the guidance.


— The Uvalde shooting “stirred something” in him. So he gave up his gun: Washington Post

— O’Rourke bets shooting will shake up Texas governor’s race: Associated Press

— A gun and a prayer: How the far right took control of Texas’ response to mass shootings: Texas Tribune

— What Lia Thomas could mean for women’s elite sports: New York Times

— How the pandemic remade the SAT: New Yorker

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