WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Republicans have turned to reopening schools as their political rallying cry to try to win back key components of their base: suburban voters and women.
GOP lawmakers continued their push Wednesday for students’ safe return to the classroom with money Congress approved last year, but Democrats still want billions more to make that happen.
“Parents can see that virtual learning simply isn’t working,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-AR.
Boozman reports nearly 70 percent of his state’s public school students have returned to the classroom, despite different COVID-19 challenges in each district.
“They moved ahead with the same goal: finding the best and the safest way to get and keep children and teachers in the classroom,” Boozman said.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA, said his state also has the same percentage back in school, but he worries more than half the students nationwide are still at home.
“We are doing immeasurable damage, immeasurable damage to a generation of children,” Kennedy said.
In his Covid relief plan, President Joe Biden included an additional $130 billion to help K through 12 schools reopen.
“It’s not a matter of money,” Kennedy said.
Republicans argue states have only spent about $5 billion of the $70 billion Congress approved in past relief bills.
“This bill does not dedicate real money to reopen schools,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-LA.
Scalise said the president’s proposal does not require schools to spend the money on reopening this year, but Democrats argue the legislation will fund new ventilation systems, personal protective equipment, and widespread testing.
“It’s our hope that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will stop playing politics,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY.
Jeffries will vote for the package later this week in the House then Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, is prepared to send it to President Biden’s desk with or without the GOP.
“If congressional Republicans want to oppose all of that, my response is good luck,” Schumer said.