News Brief: School Reopenings, Trump Niece's Book, U.S.-Mexico Meeting
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The Trump administration is taking action this week that will affect students from kindergarten all the way through graduate school.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told governors that all schools need to be, quote, "fully operational" in the fall. That means kids in school full-time, in person. Also ICE - that's Immigration and Customs Enforcement - is revoking visas for international students whose universities are only offering online courses this semester.
GREENE: A lot to talk about with NPR's Elissa Nadworny, who is covering all of this. Good morning, Elissa.
ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: OK. So with this pressure coming from the Trump administration now, how likely is it that we're going to see K-12 schools around the country back this fall, all in-person learning?
NADWORNY: Well, some states, like Florida and Texas, they have announced a return to full-time, in-person school in the fall. But a lot more states are taking their time with this decision. And there's good reason for that, you know? On one hand schools, provide important support services. But there's also social, emotional and academic costs to keeping kids at home.
Plus, students that are staying at home, it makes it harder for their parents and their caregivers to go back to work. You know, bringing students back to school safely and in a way that's in line with CDC guidance, it's going to be really expensive. One education group has said schools may need more than $200 billion in federal funding to pull it off. So far, Congress has only set aside about $13 billion.
GREENE: Oh, wow. So they need to come up with a lot more money to feel good about this potentially. Can you talk about that? I mean, what makes it so expensive to make sure...
GREENE: ...That in-person schooling will be safe for kids?
NADWORNY: Well, when it comes to reopening K-12 schools, the CDC recommends that they intensify cleaning and disinfection. They also suggest that they encourage social distancing by spacing students out more, teaching them in smaller groups. Both of those precautions take extra staff. They take space. These are resources that schools don't necessarily have right now. On top of that, as NPR's Cory Turner's reported, you know, the current recession has led to devastating cuts to state education budgets.
So getting help from Congress and the federal government is going to be really important for K-12. It's also going to be important for colleges and universities because many institutions find themselves in a real financial crisis. And for colleges, that's true in-person and online. Both are going to be expensive. For public colleges as states balance their budget - higher-ed often isn't compulsory. So when they need money for other things, like K-12, they cut college.
GREENE: Well, let's talk about colleges and universities because we have this other big announcement from the Trump administration coming from ICE that could really change life for international students.
NADWORNY: Right. So if your school has come out and said that due to the pandemic, they're going to be all virtual in the fall, the federal rule says, you won't be able to remain in the U.S. If you want to stay here, you have to transfer to a school that's offering in-person classes. Here's Rachel Banks from NAFSA Association of International Educators.
RACHEL BANKS: It really removed the decision-making power from higher education institutions. Basically, this guidance has said, well, if you're going to pursue a fully online model, you can't have international students on your campus.
NADWORNY: So the timing is also really significant because colleges have spent all summer figuring out their plans for the fall. You know, many have already outlined their plans for students. They involved moving up those start dates to avoid a potential second wave. So that doesn't leave a lot of time for schools to rearrange their plans or for students to transfer to another program.
GREENE: Sure. Well, I mean, given all that, how are universities reacting to this move?
NADWORNY: So a lot of administrators that I talked to expressed frustration or they're confused. Brad Farnsworth is with the American Council on Education, which represents thousands of colleges. Here's what he told me.
BRAD FARNSWORTH: The reaction from our community has been one of consternation. Our institutions are extremely concerned about this new policy directive.
NADWORNY: You know, schools say they're committed to helping their international students navigate this. And they'll work with students individually to make those course loads work.
GREENE: NPR's Elissa Nadworny. Thanks so much, Elissa.
NADWORNY: Thanks, David.
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GREENE: All right. Mary Trump, President Trump's niece, broke ranks with her family and, after a legal battle, plans to release her memoir, "Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created The World's Most Dangerous Man."
MARTIN: The book focuses on the psychology of the Trump family, probes the complicated relationships, motives, the secrets at the heart of this family dynasty. She says her uncle is a narcissist and a bully who even paid someone to take the SAT for him.
GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith read the book. She's with us this morning. Hi, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: So besides what Rachel mentioned there about the SAT, what are some of the other allegations that the president's niece is making here?
KEITH: Yeah. So NPR obtained this book ahead of its publication next week. And Mary Trump has a lot to say about her family. She says her grandparents were problematic, calling the president's mother emotionally and physically absent and her grandfather, Trump's father, the real estate mogul, a high-functioning sociopath. She says Fred Trump, the family patriarch, humiliated her father, Fred Trump Jr., who died at the age of 42 of alcohol-related illness, and short-circuited Donald Trump's "ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion." That's a quote. She writes this, Donald, following the lead of my grandfather and with the complicity, silence and inaction of his siblings, destroyed my father. I can't let him destroy my country.
Fred Trump Jr., her dad, is a tragic figure in this book and in the Trump family. And President Trump told The Washington Post last year that he regretted having put pressure on Fred Trump Jr. to join the family's real estate business. It just wasn't his thing, he said. Fred Trump Jr. did briefly pursue his dream as a commercial pilot. And the author quotes the president as telling her father Freddy, "dad's right about you. You're nothing but a glorified bus driver." And she blames that pressure for her father's emotional wreckage and physical decline.
GREENE: Wow. OK. So what an inside look at that this family. And I'm sure there's going to be a lot of discussion about the credibility of what's in this book. I mean, so can you tell me more about Mary Trump?
KEITH: Yeah. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. It is a sympathetic portrait of her father and unsparing when it comes to the rest of the family. But a lot of the anecdotes are really family stories and things she couldn't have witnessed firsthand - for instance, the allegation that her uncle paid a smart kid to take his SATs. She was 16 when her father died. And then, she was taken care of by the family for a while. But then when her grandfather died, there was this big legal fight, ultimately a settlement that resulted in her getting some money and her brother, but an NDA, which is now at the heart of this legal battle over the book.
GREENE: And what about that NDA? Did it just not hold up?
KEITH: Well, it's been battled out in court, it still is. But an appeals court said that, though, Mary Trump was a party to the agreement, Simon & Schuster was not. And so publication is going ahead next week.
GREENE: And White House reaction so far?
KEITH: Sarah Matthews, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement that she questioned the author's motives. She said the president had a great relationship with his father. And she described the SAT allegations as absurd and completely false.
GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Tam, thanks.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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GREENE: All right. Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is in Washington today to meet with President Trump.
MARTIN: It is his first foreign trip since taking office in Mexico. The two leaders are meeting to celebrate a new regional trade pact. But someone is missing because this pact also includes Canada. The Canadian prime minister declined the invitation.
GREENE: And we have NPR Mexico City correspondent Carrie Kahn with us this morning. Hi, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: Talk me through the context of all this. What does Mexico's president gain from making this trip right now?
KAHN: In a lot of ways, Lopez Obrador is in the same situation as Trump. This visit just gives them both a chance to change the conversation and focus on what they both say is their great accomplishment, the trade pact between the three countries - U.S., Mexico and Canada. For Lopez Obrador, he really does need some good news. It's just a lot of bad these days.
In Mexico, the coronavirus cases here are still on the rise - more than 32,000 dead now. You know, Mexico just passed France and Spain in the number of deaths. And the economy is reeling. Mexico has lost more than a million formal jobs due to the pandemic, many more informal jobs. Economists say, you know, the economy could contract by as much as 10%. So this trade pact, it's good news for Lopez Obrador. He repeatedly says it's the key to Mexico's economic recovery.
GREENE: Well, so then how is the trip playing back home? Is it in the news? Are people following it?
KAHN: It is very much in the news. As Rachel just said, it's Lopez Obrador's first foreign trip. And in keeping with his populist, you know, man of the people persona, he flew to D.C. on a commercial airline. He even had the layover in Atlanta since there are no direct flights now from here to D.C. because of the pandemic. Polls do show that almost 60% of Mexicans are in favor of the president meeting Trump. Many people that I talked to said they just hoped the visit will help the country get new jobs - it's all about the economy for them - even though, you know, Trump is still a much-disliked figure in Mexico.
But when you listen to the pundits, the opposition politicians, analysts, you know, former diplomats, they're outraged by this visit and have been just decrying the trip for days. They're just dumbfounded that the Mexican president would go out of his way to visit Trump at the White House, one, because just months before the U.S. elections, but also after all the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant, racist rhetoric Trump has used against them.
GREENE: Well, and when Mexico's president came into office, I mean, he was railing against Trump, right? And now they seem to have this working relationship, especially on immigration. So what happened here?
KAHN: Exactly. It's quite a unique, let's say, alliance that has developed between the two. As he said, he did rail against Trump as a candidate and all of his offensive comments. But clearly, as President Lopez Obrador has decided early on, it was better to appease Trump than to fight with him. And it appears that the two presidents have grown to respect each other - at least that's what they say publicly. So let's see how it goes, you know?
Will Lopez Obrador get to hold his head high like he promised Mexicans he would do on this trip? Or will Trump once again show off the U.S. upper hand in this relationship and make jabs about paying for the wall or other sensitive subjects, especially, you know, at this anticipated public handshake and photo-op this afternoon. We'll just have to wait and see.
GREENE: All right. Well, I'll be watching. That is NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico talking to us about this presidential meeting at the White House today. Carrie, thanks as always.
KAHN: Oh, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.