June 22, 2022

Cassidy Leads HELP Hearing on Learning Loss Crisis due to Remote Learning, Highlights Need to Support Children with Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities

HELP Committee Hearing

(Click here to download and here to watch on YouTube.)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) led today’s Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing today on students’ learning losses as a result of school closures and remote learning during the pandemic. Cassidy discussed how the state of Connecticut is addressing students with dyslexia who have fallen behind due to remote learning with the Connecticut State Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker. Cassidy also spoke to Erin Wall, a mother of three children who moved her son to private school when his public school refused to have in-person learning.

“While the evidence was clear that it was in fact safe to return to the classroom, teachers’ unions forced shutdowns to continue and in many cases, this was enabled by politicians,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We know it was safe to reopen because others in the United States did reopen and it was indeed safe. Child care facilities and private schools were able to safely remain open even during the height of the pandemic. When the interest of the student was truly put first, rather than the interest of the union or a politician pandering to the union, a way to reopen was found and the students got the education and support they need.”

On the impact of remote learning on children with dyslexia… 

Cassidy: “One in five children are affected by dyslexia. So…the first part of the question is if you screen for dyslexia and secondly do you have specific data as regards to how those children did during the remote learning period, subsequent to the remote learning period, did they fall further behind than their peers independently of the income level of the family?”

Russell-Tucker: “So we’ve looked at a student with disabilities, we can disaggregate, I don’t have the information specifically for the students identified with dyslexia, but those students with disabilities in general certainly were disproportionately impacted.” 

Cassidy: “And does Connecticut screen and then subsequently test to confirm if someone is dyslexic? Do you screen children for dyslexia?” 

Russell-Tucker: “That is occurring, it is an area for concern for us. This past session an office of dyslexia and reading disabilities was placed by our legislature in our office to really get closer to those issues to work with also higher education, to make sure our teachers…”

On Republicans push to safely reopen all schools…

Cassidy: “In these packages that we passed to give financial aid to school, it was a battle for Republicans to get resources for parochial and private schools. And once we allocated it, some Democratic governors refused to give it. It was incredibly frustrating. That probably points to a difference of perspective. From the Republican standpoint, we take it from the perspective of the student and his or her family, not from the school itself. That is distinctly a different perspective.” 

On the importance of school choice…

Cassidy: “Ms. Wall, you spoke about taking your children to the private setting. You implied, you were very delicate, that that cost you a fair amount of money, but your family could afford it. There are a lot of families out there who cannot afford. Any comment on that, Ms. Wall?”

Wall: “We had every intention to send all three of our children to public school. I went to public school, my husband went to public school. However, when it was clear that public school was not going to provide in-person instruction for our children, we chose to send our middle son to private school. Now had they had in-person instruction, he would have been in public school. We made that decision for him because we knew it was best for him. He had more or less a normal year, and we’re grateful for that…”

Cassidy: “He had essentially a normal year?” 

Wall: “Yes.” 

Cassidy: “And you’re about to say most families could not afford such an arrangement?”

Wall: “Correct.”

Cassidy: “And I suspect if you had to send all three, it would have been difficult for your family?”

Wall: “Yes.”