Guest Opinion: Calling on Biden to follow the science and reopen schools

February 22, 2021
In The News

President Biden promised to reopen schools within 100 days of taking office, yet just recently his press secretary significantly walked back on this promise, giving a less than ambitious goal parents wanted to hear. President Biden’s new “goal” is to see our nation’s schools hold in-person classes just once a week by the end of April. This is unacceptable — America’s students deserve better.

In January, the nation’s top health agency, the Centers for Disease Control, recommended in person learning for our nation’s students. President Biden’s own CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, recently stated “…there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen.”

Despite the science and data pointing to reopening, many schools remain closed today at the great expense of our children. Should they remain closed, we risk leaving behind an entire generation of American students. That’s why I sent a letter to President Biden last week requesting he safely reopen schools.

In most of our school systems, remote learning has had a largely harmful impact on our children’s academic performance and overall wellbeing. For example, here in Minnesota, St. Paul public school administrators said that the number of failing grades has doubled over the previous year. And without access to resources like the Internet, computers, extra funds for tutoring, counselors, or parents available to help during the day, low-income students are disproportionately impacted. In fact, a recent study shows that one year of school closures will result in a 25% decrease in earning potential of low-income students after graduation.

Outside of failing to educate students, the closure of schools has robbed students of opportunities to socialize, receive nutritional health services, and access resources to cope with mental health issues. One of the most tragic side effects resulting from school closures has been the enormous impact on children’s mental health. One in six of American children already experience mental health issues, and due to the increase in isolation, we have seen emergency mental health visits for children dramatically surge.

And it’s not just the students who are suffering. As working parents attempt to navigate school closures, many have been forced to make tough choices about their careers and providing for their children. A survey done over the summer suggests that working mothers have been more impacted, with one in four saying that they are considering dropping out of the workforce. As we work our way back towards economic recovery, the federal government needs to be championing policies that make it easier for parents to remain in the workforce.

As a father of four, I am seeing firsthand the struggles with remote learning. I have been calling for schools to safely reopen for months, which is why I helped designate nearly $70 billion for K-12 funding in the most recent COVID package. Unfortunately, as of last week, only $4 billion has been distributed. This is not helping anyone, especially our children. With this abundance of federal resources, there is no reason our children haven’t been back in the classroom learning.

President Biden and fellow Democrat politicians have spent months vowing to listen to the science, but when it comes to school reopening, they have not lived up to their promise. It’s time for President Biden to do right by our children and work with all the nation’s governors to take reasonable measures to resume in-person learning. Failure to do so will be catastrophic for our children, our future workforce, and the future of our nation as a whole.