Teachers Push Back on Reopening in Florida

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Trump threatens to deploy federal troops across the country; Congress girds for another fight over coronavirus relief; and Florida teachers say, No, we won’t go. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

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  • Florida’s Republican leadership has echoed the Trump administration’s insistence that schools reopen for in-person learning this fall — even as the state continues to lead the country in new coronavirus cases. But teachers’ unions say that’s unacceptable.

  • The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, and its local affiliate, the Florida Education Association, sued Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday, accusing him of violating a Florida law requiring that schools be “safe” and “secure.”

  • This month, DeSantis’s administration formally ordered schools to reopen in person when the fall semester begins next month. President Trump, meanwhile, has threatened to take away funding for school districts if they stick to online-only learning, though he controls only a sliver of the money in school budgets nationwide.

  • A Times analysis last week found that just two of the nation’s 10 largest school districts had reached a crucial public-health threshold for reopening, whereby the average daily infection rate remains below 5 percent among people tested for the virus. Half of those 10 school districts are in Florida; all five had infection rates above 5 percent, according to the analysis.

  • Trump doesn’t want to pass another round of coronavirus stimulus legislation unless it ties all new education funding to the resumption of in-person classes. He also doesn’t want the bill to pay for testing and tracing efforts. And he would like a payroll tax cut to be thrown in there too, please.

  • All of these demands are considered nonstarters by fellow Republicans — and anathema by Democrats. As of Tuesday morning, they were standing in the way of an agreement between Trump and Senate Republicans, who are preparing to head into negotiations with House Democrats.

  • The House passed a $3 trillion bill in May, but it has languished; Republican leaders said they planned to propose legislation with a total price closer to $1 trillion.

  • In an Op-Ed article published by The Times’s Opinion section this morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren argued for “a bold, ambitious legislative response,” saying that the next round of stimulus should take the steps necessary to control the virus; furnish state and local agencies with needed resources; address the needs of marginalized communities; and support “struggling families who don’t know when the next paycheck will come.”

  • It turns out what’s going on in Portland may only be the pilot program. Since last week, armed federal forces clad in camouflage have been patrolling Oregon’s largest city, clashing with protesters and throwing some into unmarked vans without explanation, according to videos and the accounts of demonstrators.

  • The patrols drew a strong rebuke from local officials — and a legal challenge from the state attorney general.

  • But speaking to reporters at the White House yesterday, Trump praised the agents for doing “a fantastic job,” and indicated that he was considering deploying more federal forces in other cities.

  • “We’re looking at Chicago, too, we’re looking at New York,” Trump said. “Look at what’s going on. All run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats, all run really by radical left. I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you.”

  • Joe Biden has now led Trump in national polling averages by more than eight percentage points for over a month, as Nate Cohn writes in a new analysis. No candidate in any recent presidential campaign has held so large a lead for so long. Biden has been only a sporadic presence on the campaign trail, and his advantage reflects voters’ frustrations with Trump — particularly his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

  • Acknowledging the public’s hunger for leadership during the outbreak, Trump announced yesterday that he would bring back the daily coronavirus briefings, which he held throughout much of March and April, typically alongside other White House officials and health experts.

  • Of course, there’s no guarantee that bringing them back will restore public confidence in the president. By the end of April, when he first called off the briefings, most polls showed that a majority of Americans disapproved of his handling of the pandemic, and many top Republicans had determined that his freewheeling news conferences were doing more harm than good.

  • Still, one thing seems certain: The briefings will provide Trump with a highly visible platform to say virtually whatever he likes, with just over three months to go before the election. “I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television — there’s never been anything like it,” he said yesterday, referring to the fact that the briefings sometimes reached over 10 million people on cable news channels alone. He called the news conferences “a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics.”

  • There was big news on the vaccine front yesterday: Three competing laboratories released promising results from early trials on human patients. Two of the labs — one in Britain and one in China — published their reports in peer-reviewed journals.

  • Each of the three vaccines so far appears to be safe and to produce an immune response. Now researchers must determine whether they actually protect against the virus, for how long they do so, and whether any serious side effects emerge.

  • The Economist has reported that, given the current trajectory, a coronavirus vaccine could be cleared for emergency use as early as October. It’s not yet known how long it will take for the vaccine to become publicly available in the United States, but you can safely bet that Trump — who now regularly mentions vaccine progress when talking to the news media — will consider any sign of progress to be a boon to his re-election chances.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump met yesterday in the Oval Office with Republican lawmakers and members of his cabinet.


Updated 2020-07-21T11:44:22.798Z

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Yesterday, 27 scholars and voting-rights advocates offered what seems like an audacious idea: requiring all eligible Americans to vote in every election, or potentially be fined.

Universal “civic duty voting,” they said, would solve a lot of problems. When everyone votes, the barriers to registering new voters fall away. Voter suppression becomes irrelevant. Politicians have to court an electorate that extends beyond their narrow bases, promoting moderation. Democracy truly runs on the consent of the governed — not the minority who cast ballots.

The idea, proposed in a 63-page report published by the Brookings Institution and the Harvard Kennedy School, is certain to rile those who see an order to wear a mask as an assault on freedom, never mind an order to vote. Others will argue that voting should be limited to those who care enough to make the effort. But about two dozen countries already use some form of mandatory voting, and in Australia — the independent-minded nation that was the template for the proposal — civic duty voting not only works, but is also wildly popular, and has been for nearly a century.

Australia’s requirement is no diktat, said Miles Rapoport, a fellow in democracy studies at the Kennedy School and a co-author of the proposal with E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Brookings Institution. After an Australian election, those who didn’t participate receive a letter asking them to explain their absence (a wide range of excuses are acceptable). Non-respondents get a second letter, and if they don’t reply, they’re fined — but only about $20, Rapoport said.

The idea is not to force but to prod citizens to participate in democracy, even if they cast blank ballots. And it works: About nine in 10 registered voters regularly cast ballots, and only a tiny fraction are actually fined.

Will Americans buy it? “Our intent at this point is just to put it on the table,” Rapoport said. He pitched the idea to lawmakers last year at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Nashville. “The reaction was mixed,” he said. “Some were immediately negative, but others said they thought it was an intriguing idea. And several said they would like to submit legislation embodying it in their states.”

“Our working group began with the premise that the full participation of every American citizen in our democratic process is a fundamental good,” he added. “We don’t assume everyone will share that idea, but we think it’s fundamentally true to the basic principles of democracy.”


New York Times Events

Join us at 4 p.m. Eastern today as we discuss how, 100 years since women’s suffrage, many groups are still fighting for unimpeded access to the vote during a presidential election year. Who still faces obstacles to voting? What can be done to change it?

This Unfinished Work conversation, hosted by our deputy Politics editor Rachel Dry, will bring together political experts and leaders including Representative Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico; Lauren Groh-Wargo, the chief executive of Fair Fight Action; and Melanye Price, a political science professor, to shed light on how voting power really works in this country — and how many people are still fighting to exercise voting rights.

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