LETTER: Hinson Asks Biden Administration for Answers on School Reopening

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Congresswoman Ashley Hinson sent a letter to President Biden requesting specific information on his Administration’s plan to get children and teachers back in the classroom quickly and safely.

In a letter, Hinson specifically asked about coordination between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Education to ensure schools are equipped to reopen. She expressed her willingness to work together to ensure funding passed for schools in the American Rescue Plan is used by schools that are making an effort to reopen safely.

“Last year, Congress sent $67.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools for safe reopening measures. This $67.5 billion is not an insignificant amount, and much of it remains unspent while our schools are still closed. We are currently considering another $129 billion. The obstacle to getting our students back in the classroom is not a monetary one, but rather an administrative one. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said repeatedly, our schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen,” wrote Congresswoman Hinson. “I am worried that every day that goes by of our students staying home is another day closer to our next generation being lost. We have seen the mental and emotional toll this has taken on our children. The CDC is reporting that from March to October 2020, the proportion of emergency room visits for mental health emergencies increased by 3 percent for children ages 12-17, and by 24 percent for children ages 5-11. Something must be done quickly.”

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear President Biden,

I write regarding the current state of our schools and school children. Across the country, we have seen schools shutter classrooms and our students restricted to remote learning for nearly a year. Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, Congress not only provided necessary aid to individuals and businesses, but also directed resources specifically to our elementary and secondary schools through the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund, to help our schools respond to the pandemic and adapt to the challenges that come with safely conducting in-person instruction. As Congress comes to consider another expansive COVID-19 relief package, I ask what steps your Administration is taking to ensure that our students are safely returned to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Last year, Congress sent $67.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools for safe reopening measures. This $67.5 billion is not an insignificant amount, and much of it remains unspent while our schools are still closed. We are currently considering another $129 billion. The obstacle to getting our students back in the classroom is not a monetary one, but rather an administrative one. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said repeatedly, our schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen.

Children are struggling in a virtual learning environment. We cannot expect schools in rural and low-income communities to teach our students effectively from behind screens. As the mother of two, I know kids need interaction, socialization, and a nurturing environment to grow and learn. A mother driving to a local library’s parking lot for Wi-Fi access, so her children can stare at a screen in the back seat of a car is no substitute for a classroom. I am worried that every day that goes by of our students staying home is another day closer to our next generation being lost. We have seen the mental and emotional toll this has taken on our children. The CDC is reporting that from March to October 2020, the proportion of emergency room visits for mental health emergencies increased by 3 percent for children ages 12-17, and by 24 percent for children ages 5-11. Something must be done quickly.

Students in rural and low-income communities without in-person learning will fall further behind, while families with resources are transferring their children to private schools or school districts conducting in-person instruction. Teachers unions have tied the hands of our local leaders, setting unreasonable and unscientific standards for reopening. As the CDC stated in its newest guidance, vaccination for teachers is not a prerequisite for safe in-person instruction.

Given this, what steps is your Administration actively taking to get our children back in the classroom as quickly as possible, while still operating safely?

Are you actively coordinating between the CDC and the Department of Education to ensure that K-12 schools are properly equipped for an expeditious and safe reopening?

In your American Rescue Plan, additional aid is not conditioned on reopening schools. Are you willing to work with me to ensure that the funding Congress intends for reopening is actually used by schools that have reopening plans?

Thank you, Mr. President, for your prompt attention to this matter. I encourage you to bring our students back to the classroom before the damage becomes irreparable and welcome you to join me in this effort.

Sincerely,

Ashley Hinson