Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said in an interview over the weekend that she is proud of how Democrats handled school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in historic learning loss for students.
Murray commented in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Dana Bash. In the interview, Bash asked Murray, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, if it was a “mistake” to keep students home from school during the pandemic for as long as they did. Murray’s interview came after a federal report showed drastic learning loss for students during the pandemic. In the report, reading scores saw the largest decline since 1990 and the largest decline ever in math.
“Dana, this [school closures] was a decision of local school officials and our scientific experts trying to get their hands around a pandemic that was killing millions of Americans to protect their children, to protect their staff, to protect their communities,” Murray said. “I am proud that when Democrats got control a year and a half ago, Democrats voted for the American Rescue Plan that helps our kids get back into school safely.”
“In retrospect, no second thoughts?” Bash pressed, adding, “given the numbers that you’re seeing, the decline that we just talked about, you still feel comfortable with the way that school districts, even in your home state, handled the pandemic?”
“I think we were under unprecedented times at that point, where people really were struggling to figure out what was the best thing to do, to make sure that their kids, their families, their children were safe,” Murray answered. “Remember, people were dying by the hundreds of thousands.”
Murray added that the priority now should be to get students “back to where they need to be.”
Townhall has covered lower academic performance, chronic absenteeism, and mental health challenges that have become prevalent among students since the pandemic. This year, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that more than 40 percent of teenagers felt “sad” or “hopeless” during the pandemic. This month, 50,000 students in Los Angeles were absent on the first day of school.
Though most schools have reopened for in-person learning, many face a shortage of teachers and teacher strikes.
In late August, Townhall reported how teachers at Ohio’s largest school district went on strike days before the start of the school year. The Columbus Education Association union, representing over 4,000 teachers, nurses, and other education professionals, went on strike for the first time since 1975 due to a disagreement with the school district over learning and teaching conditions. Students returned to school the following week.
In Washington, a teacher strike at the Kent School District near Seattle delayed the start of the school year for about 25,000 students. The strike over wages and class sizes canceled school on Thursday on what would have been the first day of the 2022-2023 school year. In addition, teachers in Seattle are poised to strike ahead of the school year if union leaders do not come to an agreement with the public school district over learning and teaching conditions.