Owens Opening Statement at Hearing on Supporting Homeless and Foster Students

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Republican Leader of the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Burgess Owens (R-UT) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at a hearing on supporting students experiencing foster care and homelessness:

“For over a year, students across our country have been negatively impacted by school closures. This has had an even greater impact on foster, homeless, and housing insecure youth. For these children, school is so much more than a place to learn; it’s a place that provides the meals, structure, and safety they don’t necessarily receive anywhere else.

“The most frustrating part of this situation is that the research demonstrates – and has demonstrated for months – that school-aged children are less likely to transmit the virus to others, including adults. Further reducing this risk, nearly 80 percent of teachers had received at least one dose of the vaccine by the beginning of April. There is absolutely no reason for our schools to remain closed and yet, half of the school districts across this country are still not offering full-time in-person instruction.

“To the children who have gone hungry, whose abuse has gone unnoticed, or who have had no recourse from the streets – I would like to explain what has kept our schools closed for so long – and it’s not the science.

“The Biden administration has relied too much on the desire of the teachers unions, causing unnecessary, prolonged closures that continue to inflict real harm on children lacking a home or stable family life.

“We finally heard last week from the President of the American Federation of Teachers – the same union that lobbied the CDC to keep our schools closed – that schools should reopen for in-person learning five days a week in the fall. I’m ecstatic that we are finally in agreement on this issue, but it is not good enough. Schools should have reopened full-time months ago. This wasted time is causing irreparable damage to millions of students nationwide.

“In fact, we’ll hear from one foster parent about how these closures left her children without the attention and instruction they needed to be successful in the classroom. And how countless other children facing abuse and neglect were denied the lifeline offered by in-person instruction.

“My Democrat colleagues love to argue that throwing more money at this problem is the solution. They will spend this hearing today highlighting President Biden’s American Rescue Plan ‘relief’ scheme, in which 20 percent of the funding for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund must go towards addressing learning loss. They’ll talk about money for homeless education. This is the third hearing on the impact of the pandemic and each time they have highlighted their desire for more money, instead of our children’s need to get back in the classroom.

“The fact is that no amount of money will fix the harm that has been done and continues to be done to these children and their families.

“What our children need is to get back into school . . . In-person. Full-time. None of the so-called ‘relief’ funding will go towards reopening schools this spring. What are the children who are homeless, housing insecure, or in foster care supposed to do until then? Democrats have no answer.

“Sadly, my friends across the aisle are willing to ignore the needs of vulnerable children, pretending that dollar signs and hearings are a sufficient response for our youth who are falling further and further behind. They do not know where their next meal will come from, and they are desperate for structure and normalcy during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

“House Republicans will not stop fighting to reopen schools across this country until every one of them has unlocked their doors. We know that this is the best way to help the nation’s children.”

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