House Democrats Block Consideration of the Reopen Schools Act

House Democrats Block Consideration of the Reopen Schools Act

Isabel Webb Carey
Isabel Webb Carey
|
February 3, 2021

Yesterday, House Democrats blocked the request made by Reps. Michael Burgess (TX-R) and Ashley Hinson (IA-R) to consider the Reopen Schools Act.

First introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI-D) in June 2020, the Act would have given full federal funding to schools that physically reopen during the coronavirus pandemic and penalized districts that remain closed. 

Hinson’s Reopen Schools Act contains new conditions on the $54.3 billion that Congress allocated to K-12 schools in December to help them safely reopen. She sought to reduce federal funding for schools that are not open for in-person learning from the amount provided under the last bipartisan coronavirus legislation. Her proposal would make two-thirds of funding contingent on in-person classes for at least 50% of the time and at 50% capacity. 

“Kids and families are suffering,” Hinson said in a floor speech Tuesday evening. “As a mom of two school-aged kids, this issue is personal to me. This issue is personal to all parents.” She went on to emphasize the costs of online learning to the mental health of children.

“Students need to be back in the classroom,” Burgess tweeted yesterday. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn joined his party in attacking the slow reopening of schools across the country and echoed Hinson’s concerns over the “mental and emotional tolls.” He shared a story of a boy who was nearly driven to suicide by remote learning and recited grim statistics on children’s mental health over the course of the pandemic.

“I know this has presented a dilemma for President Biden because in this case, the science is at odds with a key group of his supporters, which are the teacher unions,” Cornyn said. “Mr. President, the science is clear. The appropriate precautions are taken. It’s safe for our schools to reopen. And again, we’ve provided tens of billions of dollars to support safe reopening… The administration shouldn’t try to distance itself from the president’s 100-day promise. It should do more to encourage a safe return.”

House Democrats blocked the GOP attempt to force immediate consideration of Hinson’s legislation on a party-line vote of 219-207. Significant concerns remain over the safety of opening schools and the risks of community transmission. Despite vaccine rollouts, cases remain high and teachers’ unions have resisted efforts to re-open. On Wednesday, the White House reaffirmed commitment to getting students back to schools within the first 100 days of the administration. 

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Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey attends the University of Texas at Austin in the Plan II Honors Program with a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her interests include education, local governance, sustainability, and equity. Isabel enjoys dancing, hiking, and live music. She is also a staff writer for the Texas Orator. Email her at isabelwebbcarey@gmail.com
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