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Press Release Published: May 17, 2022

Scalise: Closing Schools Hurt Our Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) opening statement at today’s Select Subcommittee’s hearing highlights how school closures harmed children’s learning, especially low-income and minority students in Democrat-run cities. Whip Scalise urges Democrats on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis to investigate claims that the Centers and Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allowed the American Federation of Teachers to re-write critical portions of the Biden Administration’s school reopening guidance, which effectively kept thousands of schools closed when they could have reopened. Additionally, Whip Scalise calls out Select Committee Democrats for attempting to use their hearing to advocate for billions of dollars in additional government spending, which would cause inflation to skyrocket even more.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“And I’d also like to thank the witnesses for joining us today.

“I think it is obvious that the COVID lockdown policies that were adopted harmed parents and kids disproportionately. As more time passes, we see study after study confirming that tremendous damage was done personally and economically by these lockdown policies, and much of it was entirely unscientific and unnecessary. Some states, mostly Democrat-led, stayed locked down for much longer than others, prolonging the pain and exacerbating the damage.

“I wish we would have had this hearing much earlier on in the pandemic so maybe we could have prevented some of the unnecessary harm inflicted on American parents and kids. But nonetheless, I’m glad we’re having it now so that America can see how their policymakers failed them, and hopefully, we as a country, can do better and not repeat the mistakes that were made if another public health crisis hits.

“In my opinion, one of the worst consequences of the pandemic was the impact that school closures had on kids. Mr. Chairman, I ask that you please hold a hearing on that topic as well.

“Multiple studies have been released that compare test scores of kids based on how much time they spent with remote learning compared to those whose schools provided in-classroom learning. The numbers are heartbreaking.

“A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that student pass rates declined dramatically in districts with fewer days of in-person instruction. The researchers found:

“‘Passing rates in math declined by 14.2 percentage points on average; we estimate this decline was 10.1 percentage points smaller for districts fully in-person. Changes in English language arts scores were smaller, but were significantly larger in districts with larger populations of students who are Black, Hispanic or eligible for free and reduced price lunch.’

“New evidence also proves exactly what we suggested would happen—low-income students were hit the hardest by this policy failure. According to a recent Harvard study, low-income kids had more remote learning and high poverty kids were impacted the most. The study found that ‘within school districts that were remote for most of 2020-21, high-poverty schools experienced 50 percent more achievement loss than low-poverty schools…In contrast, math achievement gaps did not widen in areas that remained in-person.’

“A co-author of the Harvard study told a New York Times reporter that ‘This will probably be the largest increase in educational inequity in a generation.’

“The New York Times article goes on to explain,

“‘There are two main reasons. First, schools with large numbers of poor students were more likely to go remote.

“‘Why? Many of these schools are in major cities, which tend to be run by Democratic officials, and Republicans were generally quicker to reopen schools. High-poverty schools are also more likely to have unionized teachers, and some unions lobbied for remote schooling.

“‘Second, low-income students tended to fare even worse when schools went remote.’

“That was a headline story from the New York Times, not exactly a conservative publication.

“Look at the devastating impact on our next generation caused by Democrat leaders joining forces with union bosses to play politics with public health. These little kids are probably going to struggle academically for years to come because of overbearing and scientifically misguided Democrat lockdown policies.

“This didn’t have to happen. By the Summer and Fall of 2020, the risks of keeping schools closed were well documented, as well as the roadmap for how to reopen them as safely as possible. Yet, even as teachers were prioritized for vaccines, some refused to return to in-person instruction. Under the Biden Administration, the CDC went so far as to allow high-profile union bosses to rewrite the administration’s school reopening guidance to make it easier to keep schools closed longer.

“I want to remind everyone that in the Summer of 2020, Republicans, along with Donald Trump and CDC Director Redfield were urging schools to reopen. Democrats chose union bosses over children. To me, that’s unforgivable. It’s past time for Democrats to take responsibility for the devastation they caused and finally work with us to fix it.

“But instead of holding a hearing on this incredibly important topic, we are having a hearing today with a thinly veiled agenda to push for failed, inflation-inducing policies like a new minimum wage and government subsidies for paid leave and childcare. Of course, not only would these policies worsen inflation—the biggest burden on American families right now, but they also have zero support from Republicans and even lack support among Democrats.

“Mr. Chairman, I again ask that you please hold a hearing on the devastating impact of school closures so we can learn from these grave mistakes and finally hold the union bosses and the Biden Administration accountable.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”