Watch the Full Remarks.
"I rise today to oppose the previous question in support of our students. Our amendment would ensure that students get back in schools safely and soon.
"Students have been out of the classroom for far too long—and the costs of at home learning are far greater than we could have ever imagined, especially in terms of mental health.
"My bill, the Reopen Schools Act, would condition state COVID relief grants for education on schools reopening. It would require schools to offer at least partial in-person learning in order to receive these federal pandemic relief funds – funds that were intended to help students get back in the classroom while taking important precautions.
"Congress sent states this money so we could reopen schools safely, and yet, many children across America still don’t even have the option to go to class in person! While I am proud of my home state of Iowa for already taking a stand for students and requiring schools offer an in-person learning option, the Washington Post found that '"roughly one-third of all K-12 school districts in the United States are offering only virtual learning."
"This means a third of our classrooms are closed, a third of our school yard playgrounds roped off. The cost of this goes beyond academics. Child depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges are surging.
"The science shows that kids need to be back in school. Even the CDC has confirmed schools are not a high-transmission environment. Young kids have an extremely low infection rate, a low transmission rate, and a low rate of serious illness from COVID-19.
"And yet, they are forced to stay home and learn from behind a computer screen – that is, if these kids have access to a computer and broadband internet. For many students, especially those in rural Iowa, virtual learning isn’t easy. It’s not just going downstairs and logging onto the family computer. It’s sitting in the parking lot of the Cedar Rapids library to try and connect to wi-fi to finish their homework or take a test.
"It’s no surprise that our most vulnerable students are the ones who will suffer the most negative and longest-lasting impacts here. The isolation, lack of social support, added stress, and environmental strain of this lockdown has gone on far too long.
"Our kids are suffering. And so are families as parents are trying to juggle homeschooling with the other added stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As a mom of two school-aged kids, this issue is personal to me. Kids need to be in school. We can get them back behind desks instead of screens, and we can do so safely. That’s exactly why we allocated funds for this purpose.
"It is past time for states and local school districts to stop hoarding those resources and actually use them for their intended purpose – to pay for science-based safety measures that can get students and teachers back in the classroom with less risk.
"That is why my bill would condition a portion of the $54 billion Congress sent to states for K-12 schools in December on reopening. One-third of the education funds provided would be immediately available, with the remaining two-thirds available to schools in increasing amounts as schools move to reopen. Schools with at least 50 percent of students attending in person at least 50 percent of the time would receive the full amount.
"Parents and students want to return to the classroom – my bill will help make that happen. I hope my colleagues on both side of the aisle will join me in supporting our students by defeating the previous question. I urge a no vote. Thank you, and I yield back."