03.11.21

Cassidy: Biden Administration is Betraying the Most Vulnerable Children in our Country, Reopen Schools Now

Cassidy Reopening Schools Floor Speech screenshot

(Click here to download video of Cassidy's speech.)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) today delivered a blistering speech on the Senate floor slamming the Biden administration for disregarding science and keeping schools shuttered from in-person learning one year into the pandemic.

“[O]ne thing that is of incredible concern is it appears that the Biden administration which campaigned saying that they were going to follow science alleging that the previous administration was not, seems not to be following science but to prejudice their recommendations to fit a political agenda,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“[I]t is established that there are kids being left behind by not being in the classroom, and those kids disproportionately are poor. And that's why the Biden administration's pledge to follow science resonated, and that's why early indications that they are not is not just disappointing, it is a betrayal. And not a betrayal of a campaign pledge. A betrayal of those children who are home.”

“[I]n Louisiana, over 75% of our schools have reopened. Hats off to my state. Private and parochial schools have been open. Hats off to them.”

“We should take the money that we're giving to those public schools that will not open because the teachers' unions oppose it and give it to the parents so their children can go to the school where their children will actually be educated. And the fact that we don't do that is politics over what is best for that child. It is a betrayal of those children. And this administration's policy four months into their – into their four years demonstrates betrayal after betrayal after betrayal. Let's safely reopen schools now. We know we can do so.”

“Congress has provided $68 billion before this latest bill in order to make sure we have everything we needed in order to do that. A lack of funding has not been an excuse to reopen. What is clear is a lack of will.”

“This administration is betraying the most vulnerable children in our country. Reopen schools now.”

Click HERE to download video of Cassidy’s speech.

Click HERE to view Cassidy’s speech on YouTube.

A full transcript of Cassidy’s speech can be found below:

Mr. President,

We have an issue in this country related to the pandemic. More specifically related to children not going back to school. And, Mr. President, one thing that is of incredible concern is it appears that the Biden administration which campaigned saying that they were going to follow science alleging that the previous administration was not seems not to be following science but to prejudice their recommendations to fit a political agenda. 

With that, Mr. President, let me develop my case.

The harms of prolonged closure to school children are remarkable. They are well known. It's been up to a year since the schools have been closed, and in Mr. President's home state of California, there are some school systems which have still not reopened. Now, think about this. A place where children go not just to learn but to have social workers make sure they aren't being abused at home, a dietary staff to make sure they have adequate nutrition, but also to learn have been closed for a year.

Now, we can say wait a second, don't worry about that because the children have been given remote learning. There is ample data, Mr. President, which shows that particularly the children from lower income families are not logging on, even when they are given a broadband – given an internet-equipped computer to take home or given wi-fi access to use at home.

We can imagine it. Mom has to work. There's no one to supervise the child, so the 7-year-old is home by herself while mom is working. We can also imagine a family does not have a culture of being online. We can imagine a big family of seven or eight kids where things just kind of get lost in the shuffle and there is not enough room for someone to be by themselves. Whatever, it is established that there are kids being left behind by not being in the classroom, and those kids disproportionately are poor.

And that's why the Biden administration's pledge to follow science resonated, and that's why early indications that they are not is not just disappointing, it is a betrayal. And not a betrayal of a campaign pledge. A betrayal of those children who are home.

Now, by the way, data shows that children can safely go back to school. There was a CDC study from January of 2021 finding little evidence of virus spread in the school setting when the recommended precautions were taken. Which kind of called – and by the way, there was a recent study by the following doctors – Henderson, Ghandi, Hoeg, and Johnson from universities such as the University of Chicago, UC-Davis, and UC-San Francisco showing how safe it is to go to school, not get infected, and social distancing as minimal as three feet distant one from the other. Okay. Just three feet distant. Now, that is important, Mr. President, because if you say you can't bring kids back to school because you don't have enough classroom space for smaller classes, it's one thing if you say there must be six feet between each child and another if there only needs to be three feet. So these doctors from these prestigious universities found you only needed three feet. 

That begs the question of why did the Centers for Disease Control, in their February 26 document, say that six feet were needed? Now, you may say six feet, three feet, why does it make a difference? Because schools aren't reopening, and their excuse is they need six feet between students. They are finding a reason to keep kids at home not learning on a spurious reason.

The doctors who wrote this paper just put an editorial in USA Today, and a nice quote here – I say nice. It kind of summarizes. It's disappointing that they have to say this, is that they open up with the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, which is the quote from Franklin Roosevelt, but go on to say – to speak of the lost wages for families and the poverty and eviction that this is resulting in, but that the research says there are greater risks to life expectancies with schools closed versus schools open. But they then ask that we overcome fear by following the science, and the science says we can safely reopen our schools now full time, nonhybrid, and keep them open. Unfortunately, that is not what the Centers for Disease Control is saying.

Now, by the way, there is a clear agenda here. Part of the agenda is that teachers' unions in certain communities have not wanted to reopen. They are more concerned about the union than they are about the children. And so whether it is a democratic mayor of Chicago trying to force the teachers' union in Chicago to reopen, whether it is Los Angeles or San Diego, which have still not reopened with teachers' unions objecting to reopening there, not based upon science, not based upon risk to the teachers of the children. They would just rather not be at work. Isn't that amazing?

Now, let me tell you who has been open. First in Louisiana, over 75% of our schools have reopened. Hats off to my state. Private and parochial schools have been open. Hats off to them. Kind of the business model. If you don't get paid, you show up for work, they show up for work. So let's give hats off.

And that's why there should be school choice. If a parent can't get their child educated in Los Angeles, in San Diego, or in Chicago, then why are we keeping that child from going to a private school? Oh, they can go, you say. Not if they are poor. If they are poor, they don't have a revenue. We should take the money that we're giving to those public schools that will not open because the teachers' unions oppose it and give it to the parents so their children can go to the school where their children will actually be educated. And the fact that we don't do that is politics over what is best for that child. It is a betrayal of those children. And this administration's policy four months into their – into their four years demonstrates betrayal after betrayal after betrayal.

Let's safely reopen schools now. We know we can do so. We knew that a year ago. Science and the data shows that.

Congress has provided $68 billion before this latest bill in order to make sure we have everything we needed in order to do that. A lack of funding has not been an excuse to reopen. What is clear is a lack of will.

And I will repeat where I started. This administration is betraying the most vulnerable children in our country. Reopen schools now.

With that, I yield the floor.

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