06.22.22

At Hearing, Murray Highlights How Democrats’ American Rescue Plan is Helping Get Students Back On Track

Senator Murray: “I want parents to know this—I am in your corner fighting for you and your kids.”

 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, led a hearing on supporting schools, educators, parents, and students to get our kids back on track after the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

At the hearing, Senator Murray highlighted how the American Rescue Plan—which Democrats passed without a single Republican vote—is delivering resources to every state across the country to help schools stay open safely, support students’ academic, social, and emotional learning, and help our kids get back on track given data showing students are months—or years—behind with their learning. Senator Murray pushed to require American Rescue Plan investments to include funding specifically for addressing learning loss.

 

“We need to do everything we can to help these students recover. This is something I’ve been focused on since the earliest days of this crisis. That’s why I was glad we were able to work across the aisle at the start of this pandemic, to make sure our early bipartisan relief packages got schools the resources they needed to help keep students connected during remote learning, and reopen for in-person learning as soon as public health officials deemed it safe. And, given the scope of this crisis, I also fought hard to invest $122 billion dollars for schools in the American Rescue Plan—which Democrats passed without a single Republican vote, because recovering from this pandemic and ensuring kids get the resources they need won’t just take days. It’s going to take months and years. And we cannot shortchange our public schools, parents, or our kids.”

 

“I worked with members on this committee to ensure the American Rescue Plan included specific resources to address learning loss. Because it was so clear to me—from talking with just about any parent or teacher back in Washington state—that getting our kids’ learning back on track was not going to be like flipping on a switch. These are resources that were badly-needed and are being put to good use in all kinds of ways, like school districts providing additional tutoring, and addressing the social and emotional needs of students. But let’s be clear, our work is far from over,” continued Senator Murray.

 

At the hearing, Senator Murray continued to urge her Republican colleagues to join her in working to pass emergency COVID funding—highlighting how communities will need critical resources like tests, treatments, and vaccines to be ready for the looming threat of new variants and a fall surge, and how we need to be preparing now to help schools be ready for back-to-school and ensure they can keep kids safely in the classroom.

 

“We have to protect the hard-fought progress we have made—including keeping schools safely open for in-person learning. That means passing additional COVID funding so our communities and schools can prepare now, to keep students and families safe from whatever this pandemic throws at us next,” said Senator Murray. “So, I encourage my Republican colleagues to work with Democrats to make sure schools safely stay open for in-person learning this fall. We need to work together to give our communities more than just empty words: we need to get this COVID funding done immediately. Because our schools and communities can’t afford to wait until there is a new variant or another surge.  Schools and educators need action from Congress now, and support and expertise from the Administration so they can plan ahead for the fall to keep students safely in the classroom.”

 

Senator Murray also continued to make clear that ensuring every parent can be involved in their kids’ education is critical as we work to get our students back on track.

 

“I want parents to know this—I am in your corner fighting for you and your kids. I got my start in politics as a parent advocate. I organized moms and dads across my community to save a preschool program. I served on my local school board. I know how valuable it is to have parents involved. I want to make sure every child in this country can get an excellent public education that prepares them to succeed in life, and every parent can have their voice heard and be involved in their kids’ school—our schools are better off that way.”

 

Senator Murray’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

 

“When COVID-19 upended daily life, the disruption for schools and families—and our students—was especially severe. 

 

“I mean seriously, put yourselves in the shoes of any kid from Washington state to North Carolina.

 

“These kids lost valuable time in the classroom with their friends and teachers; they had to confide in a counselor or teacher over Zoom or a phone; after school activities, like sports or band, cut totally short; and some kids faced the earth-shattering loss of a loved one.


“I hope we can all agree we need to do everything we can to bring stability to our kids’ lives, which means keeping our communities safe, and preparing better for the fall so our kids can safely learn and grow.

 

“Now I’ve been talking to parents, educators, and students back in Washington state about what they are going through, and every single conversation drives home how critical it is we provide the support kids need to recover from the many ways this pandemic affected them.

 

“And I think it’s important we recognize how this pandemic has really made things harder for a lot of kids, particularly students of color and students from families with low incomes, who often lack access to resources.

 

“These students have faced decades of inequitable resources at the schools they attend, undermining these schools’ ability to hire experienced teachers, and provide advanced coursework options for their students.

 

“Kids living in rural communities have also struggled—I believe very strongly that children in the rural Yakima Valley deserve the exact same opportunities as kids in Seattle.

 

“I also want to note today is the anniversary of the landmark Olmstead decision, which affirmed people with disabilities have the right to an integrated life in their communities—at home, work, and at school, too.

“We have to keep working to make the promises of Olmstead a reality for everyone—and to me that means considering, and meeting, the needs of students with disabilities in our policymaking.

 

“Now, while we are still learning the full extent of how COVID has impacted our kids’ learning—we know enough to know this needs to be a top priority for all of us.

 

“Data shows kids months, or even years, behind where they would be in a typical year.

 

“And a deepening educational divide between majority-white schools, and majority-Black schools, between wealthier school districts, and higher poverty districts.


“The results of this year’s statewide exams made abundantly clear what other data is showing as well, our students—across every demographic—have been affected by this pandemic.

“And we need to do everything we can to help these students recover.

 

“This is something I’ve been focused on since the earliest days of this crisis.

 

“That’s why I was glad we were able to work across the aisle at the start of this pandemic, to make sure our early bipartisan relief packages got schools the resources they needed to help keep students connected during remote learning, and reopen for in-person learning as soon as public health officials deemed it safe.

 

“And, given the scope of this crisis, I also fought hard to invest $122 billion dollars for schools in the American Rescue Plan—which Democrats passed without a single Republican vote, because recovering from this pandemic and ensuring kids get the resources they need won’t just take days. It’s going to take months and years.

 

“And we cannot shortchange our public schools, parents, or our kids.

 

“That funding we passed, both in our bipartisan work and through Democrat’s American Rescue Plan, has been critical to getting us where we are today.

 

“To getting the vast majority of schools safely back open for in-person learning.

 

“To getting schools additional tests, masks, and better ventilation.

 

“To supporting mental health and counseling services for our students.

 

“To providing students with summer learning, tutoring, and other opportunities to address the impacts of this pandemic.

 

“And that last part is critical: I worked with members on this committee to ensure the American Rescue Plan included specific resources to address learning loss.

 

“Because it was so clear to me—from talking with just about any parent or teacher back in Washington state—that getting our kids’ learning back on track was not going to be like flipping on a switch.

 

“These are resources that were badly-needed and are being put to good use in all kinds of ways, like school districts providing additional tutoring, and addressing the social and emotional needs of students.

 

“But let’s be clear, our work is far from over.

 

“What happens next in this pandemic isn’t a given, especially amid the threat of a fall surge and new variants.

 

“We have to protect the hard fought-progress we have made—including keeping schools safely open for in-person learning.

 

“That means passing additional COVID funding so our communities and schools can prepare now, to keep students and families safe from whatever this pandemic throws at us next.

 

“These are resources we desperately need.

 

“So, I encourage my Republican colleagues to work with Democrats to make sure schools safely stay open for in-person learning this fall.

 

“We need to work together to give our communities more than just empty words: we need to get this COVID funding done immediately.

 

“Because our schools and communities can’t afford to wait until there is a new variant or another surge.

 

“Schools and educators need action from Congress now, and support and expertise from the Administration so they can plan ahead for the fall to keep students safely in the classroom.

 

“Because our kids cannot afford to deal with another major setback in their schooling.

 

“Especially after the hardships of the past few years—the learning loss that has set so many students months and years behind through no fault of their own, the trauma and mental health challenges our kids are facing, the burnout that’s causing so many educators to think about leaving a field they love, and the stress on parents’ shoulders as they try to get their kids the support they need.

 

“Democrats are working to deliver real solutions for students, schools, parents, and educators on these issues.

 

“So I want parents to know this—I am in your corner fighting for you and your kids. I got my start in politics as a parent advocate. I organized moms and dads across my community to save a preschool program. I served on my local school board. I know how valuable it is to have parents involved.

 

“I want to make sure every child in this country can get an excellent public education that prepares them to succeed in life, and every parent can have their voice heard and be involved in their kids’ school—our schools are better off that way.

 

“That’s why I fought to pass the American Rescue Plan—to deliver the resources our students, educators, and public schools need.

 

“And let’s be clear: these resources are helping schools in every single state—because kids in every state have been affected by the pandemic.

 

“That is why I am focused on working to support families, lower costs, and deliver good-paying jobs.

 

“We are focused on the economy and tackling inflation, so parents actually have the time to ask their kids about school, help with homework, and stay involved.

 

“And I’m glad we are working in a bipartisan way to make progress on so many of the challenges families are facing right now too.  

 

“Earlier this month we passed bipartisan legislation on this committee to lower drug prices, address the formula shortage, and strengthen families’ emergency and retirement savings.

 

“And we are in the process right now of passing meaningful, bipartisan steps to save lives, and keep kids and families safe from gun violence.

 

“I’d like to thank Senator Murphy in particular for his hard work and leadership on this.

 

“Now, this package is not everything we need to end gun violence—not by a mile. But the most extreme option on the table is doing nothing at all.

“This package will close the boyfriend loophole at the federal level. An important step we can take to protect people—especially women—from abusive partners

 

“And its investments in access to mental health will help stem the mental health crisis our country is experiencing.

 

“But let me be clear: we have to treat America’s gun violence crisis as a gun problem, not a mental health problem—we need universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and more investment in community violence intervention programs.

 

“With that in mind, I am continuing to work with Senator Burr to negotiate a bipartisan mental health package as well to address the stress, depression, anxiety, suicide, and so many other mental health challenges this pandemic has made so much worse.

 

“And there is so much more we need to do, and so many other challenges our families and students are facing…

 

“And I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses today, about how we can tackle one of the biggest ones—the learning loss caused by this pandemic.

 

###