(Liberty Headlines) In his push to get schools and colleges to reopen this fall, President Donald Trump warned publicly funded institutions that he will reconsider their tax-exempt status.
Trump said on Twitter on Friday he was ordering the Treasury Department to re-examine the tax-exempt status of schools that he says provide “radical indoctrination” instead of education.
“Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education,” he tweeted. “Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!”
Previous guidance from the Internal Revenue Service lays out six types of activities that can jeopardize a nonprofit organization’s tax-exempt status, including political activity, lobbying and straying from the organization’s stated purpose..
But ideology is not on the IRS’s list, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents university presidents. Any review of a school’s status would have to follow previously established guidelines, he said.
“It’s always deeply troubling to have the president single out schools, colleges or universities in a tweet,” Hartle said. “Having said that, I don’t think anything will come of this quickly.”
His interest in colleges’ finances appears to have been renewed as several schools sue the Trump administration over new restrictions on international students.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued to block the policy earlier this week, followed by Johns Hopkins University on Friday. The University of California system has said it also plans to sue.
The universities are challenging new guidance issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement saying international students cannot stay in the U.S. if they take all their classes online this fall.
The policy has been viewed as an attempt to force the nation’s universities to resume classroom instruction this fall.
Under the rules, international students must transfer schools or leave the country if their colleges plan to hold instruction entirely online. Even if their schools offer a mix of online and in-person classes, foreign students would be forbidden from taking all their courses remotely.
The lawsuit from Harvard and MIT argue that the policy breaks from a promise ICE made in March to suspend limits around online education “for the duration of the emergency.”
Until Friday, Trump had mostly focused his efforts on reopening elementary and secondary schools as millions of parents wait to find out if their children will be in school this fall.
He has insisted that they can open safely, and in a Friday tweet argued that virtual learning has been “terrible” compared with in-person instruction.
“Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!” he wrote.
Trump issued a similar warning on Twitter on Wednesday, saying other nations had successfully opened schools and that a fall reopening is “important for the children and families. May cut off funding if not open!”
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany has said the president wants to use future coronavirus relief funding as leverage. McEnany said Trump wants to “substantially bump up money for education” in the next relief package, but only for schools that reopen.
“He is looking at potentially redirecting that to make sure it goes to the student,” McEnany said at a Wednesday press briefing. She added that the funding would be “tied to the student and not to a district where schools are closed.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.