UPDATED 3:20 PM PT – Thursday, March 4, 2021
Senate Republicans came down on Democrats and their so-far stalled efforts to return children to the classroom. Talk has picked up in recent weeks of returning students to in-person learning as this was a major sticking point in Joe Biden’s campaign.
“Money is not the problem here; [the] will to get kids back to school is the problem,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) stated. “And every parent and every involved grandparent and every involved neighbor knows the kids need to be in school.”
On the campaign trail, Biden promised to return kids to the classroom within the first 100 days of taking office. However, most learning remains at a distance from an actual school building.
“Joe Biden, this is his report card, he deserves an F,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. “And it’s a well-deserved grade for him because he promised that he would have the schools open all across America within 100 days and he’s failed. And we’re halfway there.”
These comments came as the Senate geared up to consider the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which includes nearly $130 billion for schools to ensure a safe return to the classroom. Senators, however, pointed to two rounds of coronavirus funding schools have already received and noted the new funding isn’t even directly tied to schools reopening.
“If you really look at it, it says that that school money is going to go out until the year 2028,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said. “This is supposed to be an emergency bill. It is an emergency to get our schools and our students back to school and our schools reopened, but with this kind of overspending — way over the top appropriations to our schools — it’s not what we need now.”
Education groups recently claimed that despite the federal funding to date, schools actually remain underfunded. They said they anticipate more costs they won’t be able to meet without additional federal funds.
“It feels like extortion,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) stated. “It feels like we have to pay off the teachers unions to get them to bless what we already know to be true, which is students can safely go back to the classroom.”
Republicans called on targeted funding that would get schools back open and children back to in-person learning.
According to recent reports, the Biden administration’s Education Department is planning to hold a national summit in March, which will be aimed at school reopenings. Newly appointed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona also said the administration hopes to develop ways to make reopening “as seamless as possible.”