Put Students First Act of 2021

K. William Boyer
Devils Lake Journal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in introducing the Put Students First Act of 2021, legislation to prohibit federal funding to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by April 30, 2021. 

“Schools have no reason to not be letting our kids get back into the classroom,” said Senator Cramer. “There is no substitute for in-person learning, and the consequences for our country of not properly educating the next generation could be severe. Our legislation prevents schools from receiving federal funds if they are not following the science and prioritizing our children’s education.”

The Put Students First Act of 2021 includes: 

  • A prohibition of federal education funds for K-12 schools that do not reopen. This bill mandates that the Secretary of Education cannot provide any federal education dollars to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by April 30, 2021.
  • Schools that do not reopen, and have already received FY21 and/or COVID-19 relief dollars, they would be required to return these funds. This provision would apply to any future infusions of COVID-19 relief dollars being currently debated by Congress.
  • Guidance on use of forfeited and returned funds: Following the return or forfeiture of funds, states in which schools closed for in-person learning would have fifteen days to submit a plan to the Department of Education for how to use those funds to support school choice options for students impacted by school closures.
  • Grants to states with the highest percentage of schools offering in-person instruction: If a state with shuttered schools chooses not to offer school choice options to their students, those funds would then be granted to states with the highest percentage of local education agencies in the state serving schools that offer in-person instruction.
  • Child nutrition protection: Nothing in this Act would alter or preclude any eligibility, funding, or requirements related to the National School Lunch Program.
U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) joined Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in introducing the Put Students First Act of 2021, legislation to prohibit federal funding to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by April 30, 2021.

Background:

President Biden has committed to reopen schools within his first 100 days as president. Despite this commitment, the Biden Administration claims that an extravagant infusion of $130 billion is necessary for schools to reopen safely, despite reports demonstrating that K-12 schools are not significant drivers of COVID-19 transmission when reasonable measures such as masking and social distancing are practiced.

In January, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended America’s schools should reopen as soon as possible if precautions are taken – namely mask-wearing and social distancing – and that new scientific research provides "a path forward to maintain or return primarily or fully to in-person instructional delivery." Additionally, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky reiterated that “vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools” and that is clear “that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen.”

Despite strong evidence indicating that schools can and should reopen safely, a number of teachers’ unions are pushing back with unreasonable timeline requests. Notably, certain unions are demanding conditions be met that would not allow schools to be reopened until 2022, if ever.

What is your thought on this  Put Students First Act of 2021?  Do you agree with it or are you oppossed? Send us your thoughts in a letter to the editor to news@devilslakejournal.com. We want to hear from you! 

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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