In a 50-50 party split, Senate Democrats shot down an amendment that would withhold taxpayer dollars from schools that refuse to reopen after teachers are vaccinated.
On Thursday afternoon, Senate Democrats nixed a Republican-led amendment to withhold federal dollars from schools that refused to open. The proposed amendment for the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus bailout bill was a watered-down version of the “Put Students First Act of 2021,” which would prohibit federal funding to schools that do not provide an in-person learning option by the end of April.
The bill was introduced by eight Senate Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). In a press statement, Rubio said that Senate Democrats were engaging in a “partisan, anti-science charade” by withholding support from both the amendment and bill.
“Senate Democrats refuse to make reopening schools a priority even though our kids continue to suffer irreversible harm from school closures,” Rubio said. “Democrats are engaged in a partisan, anti-science charade that hurts our kids, hurts their parents, and hurts the country. It is time to put students first and reopen our schools.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) also said that Democrats were ignoring science in favor of special interests.
“Senate Democrats ignore the science and voted to keep schools closed,” Cotton tweeted. “To Democrats, special interests come first; parents and kids come last.”
Senate Democrats ignored the science and voted to keep schools closed.
To Democrats, special interests come first; parents and kids come last. https://t.co/RiAvOdxUE3
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) February 4, 2021
Democrats — including the Biden White House — have taken the side of teachers’ unions that refuse to return to in-person learning. Unions and Democrats have claimed that reopening schools would be unsafe, despite evidence that in-school transmission of the novel coronavirus is extremely rare. Many have called for complete vaccination of teachers before returning to classroom learning as well.
This is contrary to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a Wednesday White House coronavirus task force briefing that teachers do not need to be vaccinated to return to in-person learning.
“I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” Walensky said.
A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that “schools can stay open safely in communities with widespread community transmission.” Other studies have indicated that schools are also not driving coronavirus infection rates.
An analysis from NBC found that school closures have exacerbated racial inequality in education. In a study of nearly 4.4 million students, black and Hispanic students saw declines in their math scores, which suggests the pandemic has widened the educational gap for minorities.
Despite Democrats’ calls for science and equity to drive policy, they appear to be tethered to teachers’ union demands.