WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he was directing the Education Department to use its legal authority against Republican governors who are trying to block local school officials from requiring students to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures into “political disputes for their own political gain” and warned that they are “setting a dangerous tone.”

Biden said he had directed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to wield his oversight authority and take legal action “if appropriate.”

“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” Biden said.

Biden said emergency Covid funding in the American Rescue Plan could cover educators’ salaries if their pay is cut for requiring masks in their classrooms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade wear masks when they return to classrooms for the new school year.