Walorski: It’s Time for Schools to Safely Reopen for In-Person Learning

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Walorski: It’s Time for Schools to Safely Reopen for In-Person Learning

Offers Amendment to Require State Plans to Safely Reopen Schools as Condition for Waiving Child Care Funding Match

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today offered an amendment to the budget reconciliation package that would require states to create a plan to safely reopen schools for in-person learning as a condition for suspending the state match for federal child care funding. Ways and Means Committee Democrats rejected the amendment on a party line vote.

“The science is clear: Schools can return to in-person learning and operate safely with some basic precautions,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “At the same time, it’s clearer than ever that the cost of keeping children isolated at home is having immediate and long-term effects on their mental health and academic ability. Access to education is fundamental to empowering children to achieve the American Dream. These children are our future. We need to take essential precautions when returning to in-person learning, but it can and should be done.”

The $1.9 trillion COVID relief package under consideration through the budget reconciliation process would suspend through fiscal year 2022 the state match requirement for federal child care grants. Walorski’s amendment would make waiving the match for additional child care dollars conditional on states having a plan to safely reopen schools for in-person learning.

A recent study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week in the White House Briefing Room that “there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”

During the Ways and Means Committee markup of the budget reconciliation package, Walorski pointed to the sharp increase in mental health crises and suicides among children and teens since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. Last year, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis saw 108 hospitalizations of children and teens after suicide attempts, compared to 67 in 2019. In October 2020, they saw a 250 percent increase over the previous October.

Video of Congresswoman Walorski speaking on the amendment at today’s markup can be found here. Her remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“The science is clear. Schools can return to in-person learning and operate safely with some basic precautions.

“The CDC has put out guidance for how schools can safely reopen. A CDC study recently found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.”

“The data shows teachers don’t have any higher risk of infection than non-teachers. And just last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” and added that “there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen.”

“At the same time, it’s clearer than ever that the cost of keeping children isolated at home is having immediate and long-term effects on their mental health and academic ability.

“In my home state of Indiana, Riley Children’s Hospital has seen a dramatic rise in the number of children and teens hospitalized after suicide attempts. In 2019, they saw 67 kids, while in 2020, that number jumped to 108. In October, they saw a 250% increase over the previous October.

“This heartbreaking trend can be seen across the country. If you compare March through October of 2020 with the same period in 2019, we saw a 31 percent increase in mental health-related emergency room visits for those 12 to 17 years old, and a 24 percent increase for children ages 5 to 11.

“This is a national crisis.

“By safely reopening schools, we can start to combat many of the issues children face with social isolation, loneliness, and anxiety. We can also better identify situations of abuse and neglect.

“Access to education is fundamental to empowering children to achieve the American Dream. These children are our future. We need to take essential precautions when returning to in-person learning, but it can and should be done.

“My amendment would make waiving the match for additional child care dollars conditional on states having a plan to safely reopen schools with in-person learning.

“I urge my colleagues to follow the science and support this amendment that will move to safely reopen schools.

“With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Ranking Member of the House Ethics Committee.

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