- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2021

Republican lawmakers on Monday called for a bipartisan investigation into the effect of coronavirus-related school closures on children with disabilities.

GOP Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, James Comer of Kentucky, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina wrote to Democratic Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and Bobby Scott of Virginia to request they all prioritize a probe to determine whether schools are complying with federal law.

“Getting all children back to full-time, in-person instruction, especially those with special needs and disabilities, must be a bipartisan priority,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “If states or localities are violating federal civil rights laws to the detriment of students, they must be investigated, and their actions corrected. We call on you to put children over unions and science over politics. We must open an immediate, bipartisan investigation to ensure students’ needs are met and federal law is followed.”

The Republican lawmakers want Democrats to join them in making a request that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health hand over data on students’ experiences at special education schools that have reopened since coronavirus-related restrictions shuttered schools across the country.

The GOP quartet also said they want the Biden administration to provide studies comparing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children with disabilities in the U.S. to children in similar circumstances abroad.

While the Democratic lawmakers have not yet directly commented on Republicans’ requests, the Democrats’ staffs note that they are examining the COVID-19 restrictions’ effect upon kids too.

Mr. Pallone’s spokesperson pointed to a House Energy and Commerce Committee scheduled later this week to examine the risks children face from increased screen-time online amid the pandemic.

An aide to Mr. Scott on the Committee on Education and Labor touted the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief legislation as an effort to address the needs of children with disabilities.

“The chairman is equally concerned about the impact the pandemic has had on students with disabilities,” the aide said in an email. “That is why the chairman supports the American Rescue Plan, which will invest nearly $130 billion in safely reopening schools, including $3 billion in new funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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