WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined with seven of her colleagues to introduce the Put Students First Act of 2021, legislation that would prohibit federal funding to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by April 30, 2021.
In January, leading health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that America’s schools should reopen as soon as possible if precautions are taken – namely mask-wearing and social distancing – and that new scientific research provides “a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery.”
Additionally, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky reiterated in a press conference on Wednesday that “vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools” and that is clear “that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen.”
“President Biden’s own CDC director agrees that we can safely open our schools—and we should,” Ernst said. “This is a matter of emotional and academic development and the mental health of our kiddos, as well as the well-being of our working families. I’m proud to join this effort that will ensure schools that put our children first receive additional federal support during COVID-19.”
Senator Ernst joined U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., to introduce this bill.
President Joe Biden committed to reopening schools within his first 100 days as president. The Biden Administration claims that an infusion of $130 billion is necessary for schools to reopen safely. Several studies show that K-12 schools are not significant drivers of COVID-19 transmission when schools implement masks and social distancing.
Despite evidence indicating that schools can and should reopen safely, a number of teachers’ unions demand conditions that would not allow schools to be reopened until 2022.
Some key points of what ThePut Students First Act of 2021 does:
- Prohibition of federal education funds for K-12 schools that do not reopen: This bill mandates that the Secretary of Education cannot provide any federal education dollars to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by April 30, 2021.
- Schools that do not reopen, and have already received FY21 and/or COVID-19 relief dollars, would be required to return these funds. This provision would apply to any future infusions of COVID-19 relief dollars being currently debated by Congress.
- Use of forfeited and returned funds: Following the return or forfeiture of funds, states in which schools closed for in-person learning would have fifteen days to submit a plan to the Department of Education for how to use those funds to support school choice options for students impacted by school closures.
- Grants to states with the highest percentage of schools offering in-person instruction: If a state with shuttered schools chooses not to offer school choice options to their students, those funds would then be granted to states with the highest percentage of local education agencies in the state serving schools that offer in-person instruction.
- Child Nutrition: Nothing in this Act would alter or preclude any eligibility, funding, or requirements related to the National School Lunch Program.
Read the bill below:E0CDC3483CB36BC9347A3FB670E4BB1B.putting-students-first-act--aeg21116-002-