U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) offered Wednesday 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.