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Science Committee Republicans Request Hearing on Reopening Schools

(Washington, DC) – Ranking Member Frank Lucas led Republicans on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in a letter to Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson today requesting that the Committee hold a hearing on reopening schools safely. 

The letter, signed by 16 Republican Committee Members, requested a hearing to provide scientific and factual information about how schools can safely be open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to consider the research on the detrimental impact on children of prolonged virtual learning.

“The most recent guidance from CDC released on February 12 makes clear that schools can and should be open,” the letter reads. “However, there have been conflicting messages from Biden Administration officials, political leaders, and union officials about whether schools should be following the science and prioritizing in-person learning. We believe a hearing held by our Committee could provide scientific and fact-based information to build confidence for in-person learning.” 

The text of the letter is below, and the full letter can be read online here. The following Members signed on to the letter:

Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK)

Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Weber (R-TX)

Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Babin (R-TX)

Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Waltz (R-FL)

Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Stephanie Bice (R-OK)

Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Jay Obernolte (R-CA)

Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH)

Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN)

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)

Rep. Young Kim (R-CA)

Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-IA)

Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-KS)

Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL)

Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI)

Dear Chairwoman Johnson:

As members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, we respectfully request that our Committee hold a hearing in the next few weeks regarding the science on safely reopening or maintaining our nation’s K-12 schools for in-person learning.  The purpose of such a hearing would be to provide scientific and factual information to parents, teachers, students, and local school officials about how schools can safely be open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to consider the research on the detrimental impact on children of prolonged virtual learning.

We appreciate your leadership on the Committee in prioritizing holding hearings regarding the many scientific issues surrounding COVID-19, from the safety of coronavirus vaccines to the impact on the research industry.  We can think of no greater issue our Committee should examine than the future of our children, many who are falling behind and struggling with virtual learning.   

The scientific community has learned a lot over the past year about the impact of COVID-19 on children, and how to mitigate the spread of the virus.  According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is little evidence to show in-person instruction in classrooms contributes to the spread of COVID-19. This study mirrors a report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walenksy, said, “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated.”

There is also increasing evidence that virtual learning is having a detrimental impact on the developmental, emotional, and mental health of school-aged children.  According to the CDC, mental health emergency room visits increased 24 percent this past March-October over 2019 visits for children ages 5-11, and rose 31 percent for children ages 12-17 over the same period. This transition to at-home virtual learning has also put a strain on millions of parents and caregivers.  

The most recent guidance from CDC released on February 12 makes clear that schools can and should be open.  However, there has been conflicting messages from Biden Administration officials, political leaders, and union officials about whether schools should be following the science and prioritizing in-person learning.  

We believe a hearing held by our Committee could provide scientific and fact-based information to build confidence for in-person learning.  In a recent interview you stated that COVID-19 vaccination distribution is “not an issue that should be tainted with politics,” and that decisions “need to be guided by scientific determinations and where those supply is most needed.  We couldn’t agree more and believe the same about our nation’s children and schools.

 Thank you for your consideration of this request.    

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