House Republicans fell short in their effort Tuesday to force immediate consideration of a school reopening bill that would have given full federal funding to schools that physically reopen during the coronavirus pandemic and penalized districts that remain closed.
Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, offered her Reopen Schools Act on the House floor that provides new conditions on the $54 billion that Congress allocated to K-12 schools in December to help them safely reopen. Hinson’s bill would dock schools that aren’t open for in-person learning by reducing the amount of federal money they were to receive under the last bipartisan coronavirus legislation.
“Kids and families are suffering,” Hinson said in a floor speech Tuesday evening about the damaging effects of prolonged school closures. “As a mom of two school-aged kids, this issue is personal to me. This issue is personal to all parents.
“Kids need to be in school,” Hinson continued. “We can get them back behind a desk instead of in front of the screen and we can do so safely.”
Republicans offered Hinson’s legislation during a debate on procedures for the congressional budget. Democrats are teeing up the budget levels so they can potentially pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation. Republicans are in the minority and don’t control the agenda. But they made a move to try to force Hinson’s legislation to be considered immediately.
However, the Democratic-led majority voted in favor of the budget procedural vote, blocking the chance for Hinson’s legislation to be taken up immediately. The party-line vote was 219-207.
Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
Hinson’s bill would provide new conditions to the $54.3 billion Congress passed in December that was designed to help K-12 schools safely reopen. The money was to cover costs related to improving air quality in school buildings, staff training on sanitation practices and other coronavirus-related expenses.
Hinson’s proposal said two-thirds of the funding to local districts would be contingent on whether they are open for in-person learning at least 50 percent of the time and at least at 50 percent capacity.
The push for school reopening follows new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research that found coronavirus transmission at schools was very low when mask-wearing and social distancing measures were taken.
Despite data suggesting schools can reopen safely, most public school students are still at home in some fashion.
School-reopening data tracked by Burbio.com found as of Jan. 29 that 38% of U.S. K-12 public school students are still attending “virtual-only” schools and about 38% of students are attending traditional in-person school every day. The rest of the students are getting their education in a hybrid format, according to data shared with Fox News.
Hinson said students have been out of the classroom for far too long and the consequences have been too great.
“The cost of this goes well beyond academics,” Hinson said. “Child depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges are surging. The science shows kids need to be back in school.”
Separately, the House was to approve new rules Tuesday evening to impose fines on members of Congress who refuse to pass through newly installed metal detectors before entering the House chamber. Members would be docked $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for each violation thereafter.
Democrats are trying to enforce the existing gun ban in the House chamber as certain Republicans have flouted the magnetometers since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.