EXCLUSIVE: Two Republican lawmakers plan to introduce legislation on Thursday that would cut off federal funding to any school that does not reopen for in-person learning in the fall after being shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News has learned.
Reps. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Tom Tiffany, R-Wisc., will introduce the Reopen Our Schools Act Thursday amid concerns over the effectiveness of remote learning that has been implemented since the beginning of the public health crisis earlier this year.
“We need to change the subject from ‘our schools might not reopen in the fall’ to ‘our schools will reopen in the fall and here’s what we need to do it,’” Banks said in a statement provided to Fox News. “America is the land of opportunity where education is guaranteed to all children. We’re not living up that guarantee at the moment.”
The bill follows a report in the Wall Street Journal the found that learning gains made by students in class remotely were only around 70 percent of what they were in reading and less than 50 percent for math compared to traditional in-person schooling. The report also highlighted the digital divide between the rich and poor, with students from rural and low-income homes having more difficulty accessing high-speed internet and being unable to complete their schoolwork.
"These open-ended school shutdowns have set students back, made it harder for teachers to teach, and pushed parents to the breaking point," Tiffany said. "It's time to reopen America and get back to school."
Besides the issues that remote learning causes for students, Banks and Tiffany also argue that keeping students home from schools puts an economic strain of parents who have to, in effect, become their children’s substitute teachers. School lunch programs are also facing a financial burden as they have to now find and deliver free food to each students’ home.
“Reopening our schools is the lynchpin to reopening our economy,” Banks said. “Many parents rely on their kids going to school so they can go to work. To get our society up and running again, we need our children back in school.”
Research suggests that children are at low risk for contracting the coronavirus and those that do get the disease rarely suffer from serious complications. There are, however, concerns that a newly discovered inflammatory syndrome found in children is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in April, British and European scientists were seeing cases of a new condition, which researchers have now dubbed Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome Temporally associated with SARS-CoV-2 (PIMS-TS) in their paper published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to scientists, PIMS-TS presents more often with abdominal pains and diarrhea in addition to symptoms like a persistent fever. The study also found that it seems to affect a higher proportion of Black and Asian patients.
In New York City, at least 202 children were sickened by this new condition, and three lost their lives to it.
The Reopen Our Schools Act also comes as some states are already making moves to have students back in the classroom come fall – albeit with some modifications.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that all public and private schools in Virginia are on track to reopen as soon as this summer and in the fall for in-person classes.
The state will reach Phase 2 of its reopening stage by Friday, when schools can begin submitting required plans for reopening post-COVID-19 lockdowns, with an emphasis on protecting against the spread of disease.
“Resuming in-person instruction is a high priority, but we must do so in a safe, responsible, and equitable manner,” Northam said in a statement.
Fox News’ Christopher Carbone and Vandana Rambaran contributed to this report.