Senate Republicans introduced an amendment to withhold federal funds from schools that are unwilling to reopen their classrooms after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is now safe to return to school. Senate Democrats decided to block the proposal and thus stop the reopening of schools.
The Republicans’ Twitter account reported that Senator Roy Blunt introduced an amendment to the Democrats’ budget that would ensure that U.S. schools “follow the science” and reopen safely. However, he reported that the Democratic Party decided to block the initiative.
The proposed legislation seeks to hold Joe Biden’s Administration to its promise to reopen schools within the first 100 days of his administration. In addition, it would require K-12 schools to provide a face-to-face learning option by April 30th.
The senators also proposed that schools that already received federal education funds due to the pandemic, but refuse to reopen, must repay the money.
Under the bill, federal funds withheld or returned would be used by states to support choice options for students affected by the closure.
If a state with closed schools decides not to offer school choice options to its students, those funds would be awarded to states with more schools holding face-to-face education.
Earlier this week, thousands of Chicago public school teachers, backed by the teachers union, rejected the city’s order to return to work in person. In Los Angeles, the teachers union joined the School Board in pushing back against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed school reopening plan, under which only schools that reopen for in-person learning could get their share of $2 billion in additional funding.
“Keeping our nation’s students out of the classroom for a year permanently harms the educational aspirations and opportunities of an entire generation,” said Senator Rick Scott.
“It’s clear prolonged remote learning is hurting our students – many are falling behind, failing classes & experiencing mental health problems. Health experts say we should get students back into classrooms. Yet Pres. Biden is picking teachers’ unions over what’s best for kids.”Senator Roy Blunt
Senator Marco Rubio, in an article published by Fox News, stated that “Now that the CDC’s top health experts are recommending that America’s schools reopen as soon as possible if precautions are taken, teachers’ unions are fighting to stay out of the classroom.”
“Instead, they want to hold our students hostage for more federal funding even though Congress has already provided tens of billions of dollars for K-12 public schools,” he said.
Reopening schools, a fact supported by evidence
Late last year, Congress passed legislation that included $54.3 billion for public schools, a figure on top of the $13 billion provided in March 2020 to school districts through the Cares Act. “This is more than the federal government normally spends on education in an entire year,” Rubio said.
Margaret A. Honein, lead author of the JAMA report, quoted by The Washington Post, said, “The bottom line is that with the right prevention efforts we can keep transmission in schools and educational settings at a fairly low level.”
The researcher further commented that the studies showed that even in places with high infection rates there is no evidence that schools transmit the virus at higher levels than those observed in the community. He clarified, however, that this will always depend on continuing to take all sanitary precautions.
In that regard, the CDC recommends that all schools apply the following measures: use of masks, distance of six feet between people and that the same groups of students attend the same classes to limit the number of people who should be in quarantine in case there are outbreaks of infection.
“With good prevention, we can safely reopen and keep more schools open,” added Honein, CDC’s coronavirus task force leader for state and local health departments.
However, despite the evidence and the CDC’s recommendation to reopen schools, Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, said virtual learning should be prolonged.