tv Education HHS Secretaries Testify on School Reopening During COVID-19... CSPAN October 20, 2021 7:47pm-10:09pm EDT
during the covid-19 pandemic at the senate health, education, labor and pensions committee hearing. senators from both sides of the aisle questioned the secretaries on several issues, including mask mandates in schools as well as the availability and affordability of rapid covid 19 tests. this hearing runs two hours and 20 minutes. >> (background chatter)
(background chatter), good morning, regard to get started. we had a number of [inaudible] this morning and a very good chance of [inaudible] so we want to get going. the senate health education labor and pensions committee will please come to order. today, we are holding a hearing with secretary of health and human services, xavier becerra, secretary of education, miguel cardona. and on how we can help [inaudible] schools across the country as they work to safely reopen for in-person learning. ranking member barr and i will each have an opening statement and then i will introduce our witnesses and after they give their testimony, senators will
each have five minutes for a round of questions. we are unable to get to have this hearing fully open to the public for in-person attendance, live video is available on a committee website at health dot senate.gov and if you are in need of accommodations including cohost captioning, you can reach out to the committee for the office of congressional accessibility services. this pandemic has been incredibly hard on students and families and educators. for over a year, many students were not able to see their teachers or friends or counselors or coaches. students with disabilities could not get the support they needed. many students from families with low incomes could not get nutritious school meals, and students without internet at home were left struggling to keep up with the shift to remote learning. every students learning was disrupted in some way and every educator since cars found themselves trying to beat students needs through a screen, making their already challenging jobs even tougher.
i heard from so many families [inaudible] about these challenges and how devastating the crisis has been. my goal since the start of this pandemic has been to get students back in the classroom safely for in-person learning, and i know that it's been shared by numerous members of this committee on both sides of the aisle. and what no one thinks our work is done, we have sought to make our goal a reality to be by working to get relief straight to schools for multiple relief bills in 2020 and critically in the american rescue plan last march. this funding has allowed schools to take steps to keep their students safe, by providing masks and tests and improved ventilation, to keep students connected, like making sure they have access to technology at the internet, to accelerate their learning, like offering summer learning and high quality to during, and to help them navigate this incredibly tough time, like increasing mental health resources. and now, according to the cdc,
96% of k-12 public schools are offering full in-person learning. but as the delta variant has shown us, this pandemic is far from over. we saw nearly 1 million new covid cases among kids over the past four weeks. pediatric hospitals across the country are running out of beds, and according to cdc, we've seen over 1800 school closures this all year related to covid outbreaks, meaning children have their learning once again [inaudible] interrupted, and parents have their work lined up and it doesn't need to take care of their kids. families are [inaudible] everyone wants to get back to the classroom and stay there. but to get there, we have to continue working to keep students safe. and look, we have more than a word you're's worth of data. public health experts like those that the cdc and in state and local health departments have made clear what works. masks, ventilation, physical
distancing, testing, and getting everyone vaccinated who is eligible, which is essentially important to protect children under 12 who cannot yet get vaccinated. and finally, flexibility. in other words, ensuring school districts have plans to provide high quality distance learning to all students when necessary to keep them safe. do [inaudible] the work the biden administration has done to provide common sense public health measures is so important. it's been a relief to have mediated charge who set an example that public health and safety should not be partisan. it should be part of what you do to protect yourself and to protect others. and i wish every elected official took the same approach. unfortunately, intermediate parts of our country the basic steps that could keep students and educated that communities safe have been politicized. so much so that instead of promoting basic steps like wearing masks in schools, some republican governors and state legislators have been trying to applaud them. schools have been pushed to the
point by this pandemic. and instead of giving them help, those republican governors and leaders, state leaders, are threatening school funding, banning mask requirements and undermining efforts to get people vaccinated. they now are not only ignoring and in some cases denying [inaudible] in the pandemic, they are making denial a batch of water. let's be clear, there is nothing honorable about putting kids and educators and their families at risk to score political points. and the risk is real. data from cdc confirms, schools without mask requirements are three and a half times more likely to have a covid outbreak. while covid case rates in school districts with mask requirements i have that of those without them. for anyone to really concerned about public health and safety, there should be no question about putting that real world data into practice. because this is not a game to
[inaudible] who are being threatened and harassed for doing the right thing. it's not a game to students, who want to be able to go to school without contracting a deadly disease that could hurt them or a family member who is immunocompromised, or is simply who is too young yet to be vaccinated. and it is not a game to parents who want to be able to put their kids on the school bus without worrying they are putting their child at risk. they are counting on policymakers to take this pandemic seriously. now, looking down the dice here today, i know there are a lot of perspective on covid-19 represented here, but i hope all of us can send a representative that the basic public health measures we need to help kids keep safe and learning in schools should not be political. they should be american. because we still have a lot of work ahead to get our schools and students through this pandemic and we've got to do it
together. everyone eligible who is not been vaccinated should get their shots. states and localities need to follow the subways science and do what works to keep kids safe and learning in schools. the biden administration needs to continue to build on the progress made so far to promote vaccinations, increase testing capacity, and big sure schools and districts have the guidance and the support they need to spend those funds. and our work will not end when this pandemic does. we will all have to work together to repair the damage covid-19 has done, address students academic, social, emotional and mental health needs, and help our schools build back stronger and fair. that means addressing the sharp drop in enrollment this pandemic caused. the shop right in mental health issues among kids, and the fact that covid has set many students learning back significantly, particularly students whose families are low income, students of color,
english learners, and students with disabilities. it also means addressing the inequities in systemic racism that have long plagued our education system, and have made this pandemic so much harder on so many students. so today, i look forward to hearing from both of our witnesses [inaudible] challenges and working with them and with the president to help students, parents, educators, and schools across the country get through this crisis. with that, i will turn it over to ranking member were for his opening. >> remarks good morning. let's start with some good news. for the most part, across the country, children are back in public schools. that is not new for private schools, which mostly stayed open during the highs and lows of the pandemic. public schools have now taken steps to ensure that students and teachers are able to get back to school and back safely. these are based on lessons
learned from schools that stayed open during the pandemic. for example, a study out of duke university show that in-person learning can continue with minimal transmission of covid by having a plan, being thoughtful, and taking common sense steps to make students and teachers safe. morgan news -- thanks to operation feed, most teachers are vaccinated, though that number need to get higher. and now that boosters are available for workers in high-risk settings, i hope that teachers will get the booster as well. hopefully, individuals who received moderna and johnson & johnson vaccines will have information on booster soon. even more good news, we now also have vaccines for children 12 and up. also, pfizer reports that they have good data on lower dose --
on a lower dose of their vaccine through for children ages five through 11 and have submitted that data for fda review. it is my hope that we will have a vaccine for children under 12 very soon. good news continues with therapies. we have at least six prospective treatments for those who get covid. and more treatments are on the way. i must, of course, this congress were to pass legislation that would impose price controls that killed the incentive to innovate and explore science so that more treatments and cures can be developed. i have said from the beginning of this pandemic, that vaccine therapeutics are going to be our way out. we have seen the power of these vaccines and treatments and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to turn the tide on this pandemic. i continue to encourage every american who is eligible for a
vaccine or booster shot to get it without delay. while all this is good news, the administration needs to do a better job of getting therapeutics approved. and increase supply of therapeutics that work. now for the bad news, we are here to hear from the secretary of health and human services and the secretary of education. gentlemen, welcome back to our hearing room. the president has said that open schools national priority. i agree. as cabinet members for health and education, the responsibility falls on your hands to develop a federal response and help state and local leaders to have the tools that they need to keep schools open. and to keep students and teachers safe. but i am displeased that your staff have failed to live up to the commitment to you both made to me privately and publicly, to be responsive to my oversight requests.
on august 25th, i sent you both letters with questions i received from school administrators and school officials from my state and people across the country, as well as colleagues from both sides of the aisle and congress. i received a thoroughly inadequate response yesterday, less than 24 hours before this hearing. gentlemen, congressional oversight is not an option. these questions were simple. there were no tricks. this letter was aimed at getting information on what you are doing to keep kids in the classroom. in many places in the country, we are almost two months into the school year. so this isn't a back to the school hearing. it's back in school hearing.
and many places in our country, we share goals as to how we can help school districts [inaudible] , which is why i sent the letter in august. i asked about the testing money made available to hhs, to learn how it was being administered. how schools were able to access this massive amount of money. and whether head start would have access to the money. ead and what information was on private schools in your plan. schools are still asking about testing. but it seems you have failed to communicate to them how to access these dollars. i ask about the supply chain of tests and your testing strategies, because people cannot access rapid tests when stores are out of stock and people go back to waiting days for testing results.
you have squandered the gains that we have made scaling up capacity last year. i also asked about the 190 billion dollars in funding for our schools. and why 92% of that money still remains unspent. you can't have it both ways. either that money was urgently needed and should be spent quickly, or schools don't need the money and should be reallocated to other priorities tied to covid. this isn't a slush fund for unrelated priorities. i also asked for a snapshot of data on infections, breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. so that we could have a clear picture of what is happening on the ground. you should have easy access to that data. there is no reason not to respond in a timely manner to share with me on this committee. i asked about the availability of therapeutics for children, to help ensure that children
who get covid have access to lifesaving treatments, and that parents know about these in advance. i asked about the scientific evidence for masks, because the more you can share sound science, the more you can use that to persuade people that science exists. when you resort to pounding the table, quite frankly, you are losing the argument. this brings me to the inappropriate abuse of civil rights law by the administration, which further politicizes the issue and ignores the importance of state and local policy decision making. i believe that your civil rights investigation into the states that have banned masks is counterproductive. the theory behind it is unwise and the potential for abuse of our bipartisan civil rights laws causes grave harm to all of us. if you want to use the bully pulpit to criticize and condemn
those who have banned mask mandates, that's the perk of your job. developing legal theories and abusing the powers you have to try to bully your opponents into submission is a step too far. i turn to you for your agencies help in developing clear and consistent answers to questions for my constituents, people around the country and, more importantly, my colleagues who will vote on with that pathway is in future. waiting for over a month for a reply is not acceptable. this is the first time either of you have appeared before committee since you have been confirmed. if you will not respond to oversight letters in a timely fashion, we certainly can't wait for you to reappear in six months to answer critical questions. maybe we should just ask you to appear before us once a month
before the pandemic is over so that we get timely answers. the reason i raise the importance of our oversight work is that it helps inform us where to go legislatively. as we transition to the fall and winter, students and teachers will be spending more time indoors. we will likely see more cases of covid, flu and other respiratory illnesses. and we will need to determine how to manage a potential surge in the demand for testing and treatment that will come with the holiday season. we made a clear, straightforward strategy of what must happen in the next 60 and 90 days and beyond so that americans do not have to spend another holiday season apart from their friends and family. last week, some of my colleagues and i wrote jeffrey sykes to ask about the administration's and i hope to get a more timely response from him than i have from the two of
you. finally, i need to take a few moments and confront the skunk at the picnic. your tax and spend agenda, and partisan majority, is threatening to tear apart congress and the country. you have the barest of majorities, with only the vice president breaking a tie in the senate. republicans get the role in chair. it is not the moment for granted sweeping legislation to reshape every aspect of the american family on your own. it is unconscionable. we can propose to spend billions of dollars on these priorities without a markup or amendments. without consulting on this legislation, about the real world effects of these --
on small mom and pop childcare providers. on the cost of college and state oversight of community colleges. if you succeed, democrats and republicans may no longer be able to agree on higher education or child care. or even on public health. bipartisanship means getting some, not all, of your wish list. bipartisanship means having to accept that the other side may have some good ideas. we reach easy compromises here. we work ideas out. so that more, not less, of the elected members of congress who represent the american people can say yes. it is sometimes slow. it is frequently messy. but it brings about unanimity and lasting change that is supported by the american people.
if that's not the goal, i don't know why any of us are here. >> thank you senator burr. i will now introduce today's witnesses. today the committee will hear from xavier becerra, secretary of health and human services and miguel cardona, secretary of education. secretary, thank you for joining us today. i am pleased to welcome you back. secretary becerra, we will begin with you. >> chair murray, ranking member burr, it's a pleasure to be with you alongside secretary cardona. at hhs, the safety of our school and school personnel is our top priority. always, not just during a pandemic. covid has taken so much from our children. a normal school year, time with
mentors and friends. for some, the cost have an even greater. roughly 40,000 children have lost a parent to covid-19. and more than one and a half million have lost a caregiver. the numbers only tell part of the story. the empty chair at the dinner table. the open seat in the bleachers. the quiet homes and private hospitals. it is not having a chance to say goodbye. that is the real story. we owe it to our children to make the environment is safe as possible. every step we take, we take together to save lives. that is our mindset at hhs. thanks to president biden's leadership and robust funding, our department has made critical investments to help schools stay open safely. we have learned a great deal in 18 months. increased aston, mexican masking, hygiene, all can reduce --
make no mistakes, vaccinating americans is the most effective prevention strategy for schools. the designs is clear. i call your attention to chart one. while the covid-19 rate for children has increased natives nationwide, data shows that low vaccination states are being. and in data from adults and -- covid is attacking our children, at rates even -- that's why this administration is taking several steps to turn the delta variant tied. hhs will require the nearly 300,000 educators at a head start to be vaccinated. the cdc is working with on the
importance of vaccinating school children l and school personnel. to remind everyone vaccinations are safe and effective. our food and drug administration has reaffirmed it will follow the science on covid-19 vaccines were children younger than 12. the agency is working around the clock. i am hopeful pediatric covid-19 vaccines will become available in the coming months for children five to 11 years of age. our national institute of health, and i, ages working to get parents and care providers the data they need to make good decisions for their kids. both today and for the long term. thanks to the american rescue plan, community health centers administered nearly half 1 million covid vaccines to 12 to 18-year-olds and conducted 2500 vaccination events at school based clinics, mobile and pop-up clinics. testing is another cornerstone
of our strategy. in april hhs provided ten billion dollars for screening testing to help schools reopen safely and more than two billion to scale up testing in underserved populations. we partnered with the department of defense to make 650 million dollars in investments to expand testing opportunities through k through 12 schools and in congregate settings. masking has shown its gordon erie results. cdc published a report that showed schools with and without mask requirements were three and a half times more likely to have a covid outbreak than schools with an in school mask requirement. the pandemic is not only taking lives, it's devastating our kids mental health. it may just announced 14 million dollars in the american rescue plan to expand access to mental health care by integrating telehealth services and pediatric care.
we made the largest investment ever in mental health and substance abuse block grants to states. and in august, our substance abuse and mental health services administration announced additional grants to strengthen resources for our nations youth. this is just a snapshot. over the past six months i met with parents and teens in georgia, visit trouble leaders and seattle and farmworkers in california central valley. i met with state leaders in oklahoma, families and dallas, health workers at hospitals in new orleans. madam chair, i see firsthand the resilience of our people. they are counting on us to keep their children, tomorrow's leaders, healthy and educated. as robert f. kennedy reminded us, their future is not a gift. or a guarantee. it is an achievement. i appreciate your support for a judge as through this crisis and i'm committed to working with all of you to achieve the healthy future for our children. it's what they deserve.
thank you. >> thank you secretary becerra. i will turn it over with. >> good morning, chair murray and ranking member burke. honored to be alongside my colleague and friends secretary javier the sarah. speaking about the critical work of safely reopening our nations work for in-person learning. president biden made it clear on his first day that getting all students safely into the classroom is a top priority. that has been my priority as well. i'm proud the vast majority of americas 15 million students are in school full-time, learning in person. schools are the heartbeat of communities. they are like second families to students and staff. they are thrilled to be together again. in many areas, schools are the only place where students have access to stem laboratories, music, and theater.
gymnasiums, social services, and nutritious meals. especially amid the pandemic. schools also empowered parents and caregivers to get back to work and access the vital services that they need themselves. last week, i visited five states and 11 cities during the department of education's return to school road trip. i saw sheer joy. the joy that students and educators feel about being back together, learning in person. my team and i saw students were connecting with friends, at band practice, on the basketball court, in the classrooms, and yes, even in the cafeterias. the biden administration has worked hard to help make that a reality. schools are the most effective means of ensuring students receive the academic, social, emotional, and mental health support they need to thrive.
first, the american rescue plan, or arp, has an historic lifeline. our education system didn't serve all students well before the pandemic. particularly students of color, and students from low income backgrounds with 130 billion dollars, arp is empowering states, school districts, and educators to safely reopen schools, and address education inequities that covid-19 highlighted and in many cases made worse. these funds are just the first step. as the department of education, we are service agency. we are supporting districts to implement arp funds and sharing best practices. we released multiple resources and can be in conversations with education leaders to provide support for schools and districts. we spend a lot of time listening. our work is far from over. we have seen great progress on the biden administration took office 23% of k age schools
were operating fully remote. by may, just 2% were remote. i am proud to say we will be watching watching a data dashboard soon to see reopening data throughout the country in realtime. currently, 9% of school districts are fully reopen for in-person learning. only a handful are utilizing hybrid or remote models from brief periods to contain the spread of covid-19. while we must stay vigilant, i am proud to say that an increase in a variant of covid-19 about a month before school started, america is back to school. moving forward, we will promote health and safety in schools, we will support students social, emotional needs, and we will accelerate students academic learning. and health and safety, we know mitigations outages work. the data is proving that. we cannot risk another year of shuttered classrooms and
canceled sports performances, or extracurricular activities. we owe it to our students, and we owe it to our families to follow the science and implement evidence based mitigation strategies in our schools. such as masking and physical distancing. regarding our student social and emotional development, they have suffered enough. students wellness must be factored into the reopening. school districts are determining their students needs and hiring social workers and school psychologists and implementing new mental health support. finally, we are assisting school districts in their work to address instructional time. not only as an educator, but as a father, i can tell you learning in front of a computer is no substitute for in-person learning. district so using arp funds to invest in tutoring, extending learning time, and much more. despite the adversity we've faced, i am more optimistic about the future of education than ever before. i think teachers face
unprecedented challenges with determination, creativity, and an unwavering love for their students. i have seen families come together to support the education of the children. as soon education leaders make tough decisions, knowing they aren't always going to be popular, but they are putting the students needs first. i see students flourish, they are resilient, it is our inspiration at the department of education. states are using arp to build back better. the education system we had before march 2020 is not enough. we can and we must do better. thank you, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much, secretary cardona. i will now begin a round of five minute questions. i asked my colleagues to please keep track of the clock and stay within those five minutes. i will begin. secretary cardona and be sarah, it has been a challenge over the last year and a half to keep ourselves and our families safe, especially when it comes to our children in school.
some states and localities are following the science, and public health guidance and putting in place safety measures. others are not. in fact, in some schools, basic measures to keep students safe are prohibited by extreme republicans politicizing masks and vaccines. a recent survey showed the majority of parents needed ventilation in classrooms, vaccinated teachers, social distancing, masking, and covid-19 testing in place to feel safe sending their children to school in person. yet we know these things aren't happening consistently for families. i think it would be helpful for parents and families to hear from each of you the following. one, when should a child wear a mask? and what additional measures should schools be taking to keep kids safe. secretary cardona, i will start with you. >> thank you for the question. we share that goal to make sure we are building confidence in
our school so parents feel comfortable sending their children, all children. we've been clear. we had a year's worth of experience doing this already. not only at the state level, before we had vaccines, before we had the testing protocols, before we had a year's worth of experience. we had a years worth of experience. we were safely reopening schools because we followed what works. and i'll tell you. i'll start by saying it is really important as educators that we work really closely with our health experts like we're doing at the department with hhs, cdc and our u.s. surgeon general to make sure that we're listening to medical experts when we're making decisions. masks prevent the spread of covid-19. and in schools that have high spread and which we're seeing across the country, it is critically important that masks are being utilized. the promotion of vaccinations for students that are eligible is critically important to reduce spread and make sure that if students do contract covid-19. quarantining when students do
have covid, or are exposed to someone that did, until they are able to get tested, that's critically important. our schools must be safe for learning, and we have to make sure we are communicating what we are doing to keep students safe. it's our responsibility to follow the science, as my colleague here, secretary best sarah has shown. in places that you follow mitigation strategies, we are able to keep students in the classroom without disruption. it's our responsibility to keep our students and our staff safe. >> secretary becerra? >> madam chair, the evidence has spoken. the science is clear. vaccines are the safest most effective route to keeping our kids safe, even if you are under the age of 12. it's still important for everyone who can vaccinate to vaccinate to keep everyone, including our children under the age of 12 safe. masks, the arizona study showed clearly, those places that don't use masks in schools are three and a half times more
likely to create an outbreak in the schools and those schools that do use masks. as was said, it's common sense. none of us would enter a car and start driving without bubbling up. 50 years ago, some people protested using seatbelts. today we don't. we know how safe and effective they are. same thing with vaccines, same thing with masks, same thing with social distancing, same thing with better ventilation, same thing with better hygiene. we know it works. it's common sense. i would tell each and every parent please use common sense. don't let anybody stop you from protecting your kids. >> thank you, to both of you. since the early days of this pandemic, i have been very focused on making sure testing is widely available as a tool to prevent outbreaks. i was frustrated at the trump administration's failure to articulate testing strategy and address supply shortages and communicate clearly and effectively. i pushed very hard to make progress on that front.
i know the biden administration moved quickly to fix many of the early issues of testing, but i want you to know i am troubled, however, by the continuing testing challenges which include some schools not having access to enough tests right now. we know testing would be a critical part of safely reopening schools, especially for those students who are too young to get vaccinated. secretary beshear, and wanted to ask you, what specific steps is the federal government taking to make sure tests are accessible to schools, and what guidance is being provided to make sure they are being used effectively. >> madam chair, first, i want to make sure it's clear there is a supply of test kits available. the demand has grown dramatically and demand for certain types of tests, so that the distribution has been difficult to get in certain places. generally speaking, nationwide, there is sufficient total testing capacity across the
nation to meet our need. this includes the combining of all lab based point of care and over the counter testing. what we have done, you are probably aware earlier this month, president biden announced the use of defense production act so we could procure some two billion dollars in rapid point of care tests, and over the counter at home covid tests. we are going to continue to mobilize and work with our industry partners to make sure we could get into contracts that allow for multiple testing manufacturers to expand production, and we are actively engaged with the states to mitigate supply chain constraints, so the manufactured meets the demand. we've seen in the last few months, demand increased month over month some 300 to 650%. it has been a demand that's not been ably spread. that's why you see pockets where people say there is a shortage. there is sufficient supply,
it's just getting it to the right places and coordinating well. >> thank you. senator burke? >> i welcome the secretary this morning. secretary the sarah, you had an enterprise in the u.s. government that incorporates moving of the agencies that -- covid policy in this country. let me ask you, are you supportive of a mandate for covid vaccines for 12-year-olds and over in k through 12 education? >> senator, thank you for the question. this administration from the president on down has been very supportive of moving forward with requirements to make sure that our people are safe. >> this is a very specific question. do you support mandating the 12-year-old and over any k through 12 to be vaccinated? >> senator, again, if you asked me the question as the secretary of health and human services, i could tell you my jurisdiction does not include
schools and requiring 12 year -- olds >> represent an enterprise that drives all of the policies that go into covid. does the hhs, secretary, is he supportive of mandating k through 12, 12 years and over, that they mandatory be vaccinated. >> i'm supportive, personally and a secretary of health and human services, of a school district, of a local jurisdiction, of a governor that says it is time to keep our kids in schools safe, and we will therefore move towards requiring masks or vaccinations. >> but not the federal government? >> the federal government doesn't have jurisdiction to tell schools what to do. >> okay. >> secretary cardona, do you believe -- ought to control whether their children are vaccinated and whether they have input in what their children are taught in k
through 12? >> thank you for the question, senator. i do believe the role of educating students should involve parental involvement, and i do believe schools are adequately able to engage students parents through that process. >> now, you do support mandates on 12-year-old and over and k-12 because you and i had a conversation on the phone on that. >> states and districts are doing to protect students and staff so they can continue with in-person learning. >> does that mean you are opposed to a federal mandate of children 12 and older in k-12, a federal mandate that would require all of them to be vaccinated? >> i believe the decision about mandating should be at the state and local level, and i support efforts being made to promote vaccines and require them in places where we know spread is high. in fact, the data shows that in places where the vaccination rates are highest, there's less
interruption and learning, and the goal is to safely reopen schools but also keep them open. >> both of you put great emphasis on the data that's behind the decision to make. secretary becerra, the president made an announcement on august 18th that boosters would be available on september 20th for all americans. clearly he was out in front of the scientific data. why would we set an arbitrary date and tell the american people you will all get a booster if you've gone eight months past your initial boost? >> senator, the president was very clear throughout, he believes in vaccinating america and he believes you should be vaccinated as well. when you mentioned september 20th, when he was telegraphing to the country's, get ready. we are going to start
vaccinating, getting that boost as soon as we can, of course the science will drive the ultimate results as we have seen. >> you've got five agencies under your leadership. cdc, fda, surgeon general, nih. they all wrote a letter, they signed a letter. let me read to you what it says. we are prepared to offer booster shots to all americans beginning the week of september 20th and starting eight months after the individual second dose. there is no clarification in this? >> senator, if you read the rest of the letter, you will see that it does put up a qualifier saying subject to the science. >> secretary, one of the challenges that we have today is the communications messages so model the american people don't know what to believe and whatnot to believe.
and large measure because one can interpret this as a decision was made before the scientific data was available. what if the scientific data had not come out on the 20th? what if a decision could not have been made then? i think we share a bipartisan believe that we tried from the beginning to follow the science. secretary cardona, i am concerned taxpayers and lawmakers will never know what's the 191 billion dollars appropriated for k-12 pandemic relief paid for. according to information my staff received from the department of education is as of september 10th, k through 12 schools but 18 billion dollars, less than 10% of 191 billion of the federal coronavirus emergency relief money appropriated at the end of march, and reported the deferments current funding will not let lawmakers know how these funds are being used to address pandemic related needs of children and the department agreed to do something about. it would have you done?
he d>> thank you, senator. the funds that were provided for our schools are funds provided for our students to help them recover. i've seen firsthand in my visits to states, the creative ways districts are engaging students and re-connecting those school communities. as a former commissioner of education, i could tell you firsthand states are going to first use their money. we also know this is the path to recovery from the pandemic and from the impact on children is going to take more than one year. we do have a data dashboard on, the drawdown, and we are going to continue to get information on that. we have an outreach team that works directly with our states. not only to learn what they are using the funds on, but to share best practices. at the end of the day, our educators have been heroes to protect our students and get them safely back in the classrooms. they are also assessing with the needs are of our students. again, last week alone, i saw tremendous innovation to make sure that we aren't only assessing what students --
in terms of instructions, but it meeting them where they are with their social, a motion all needs, and ensuring our schools are safe. which includes new ventilation systems. i saw endicott county, georgia, and in other places that i visited. i am confident and i trust that educators are going to put the children's needs first and going to make sure this recovery provides long term solutions for the students, not only to get to where they were, but to thrive higher than ever before. >> thank you, chairman. >> thank you. senator casey? >> thank you chair murray. i want to thank our witnesses for your appearance today and public service. i wanted to ask -- maybe i will get a big question each of you, secretary cardona, on students with disability and secretary becerra, on behavioural health in schools. i want to put one fact on the table again. secretary cardona, in your testimony, your written testimony on the first page, you say january when the biden harris administration took office, 23% of all k through 12
schools were operating fully remotely. 23. by may, just five months, less than five months into the administration, a percent of all k through 12 schools operating remotely dropped to 2% from 23 to two. that's good news. it's directly related to dollars the federal government has provided to date over 189 billion dollars in schools. i know for the record, the rescue plan has 122 -- two thirds of the dollars came down to the rescue plan democrats passed. secretary cardona, i want to start with the students who has disabilities. 7 million as you know in the nation, students in public schools received special education services. it's an understatement to say
the pandemic, most had to adapt to online instruction. others had to have their related services such as physical or occupational therapy reduced or adapted. so many challenges that we've read about. individual education plans, which as you know well required by the i.d.e.a. led act from years ago, often requires specific therapies and specific services. here's the question. could you tell us what guidance and resources the department is providing few states and local school districts to [inaudible] services and therapies they need to set them up for success? >> thank you for that question. it is clear our students and with disabilities were greatly impacted during the pandemic. i recall stories, conversations
with parents who shared with me the impacts that their child not being able to access in-person learning had not only hampered their learning, but also their family with guard -- difficult for students using a laptop. i recall a mother who wrote a book and called it there is a rainbow. at the end of the rainbow in this book was the school reopening. her child has autism. and the remote learning, as much as educators did the very best, it wasn't the same. we need to place special emphasis on our students with disabilities and their families to make sure they are coming back to a welcoming environment. one that's where the children are now. not where they were in march 2020. we are required states to ensure i.e. peace are being updated for the fiscal year. many states understood this
important responsibility and did it in the spring so they can start the year off where children are now. we know individualized education plans are the best strategy for the students to reach their potential and updating those is critically important. furthermore, senator, from february we were providing handbooks and special attention was given to supporting students with disabilities and supporting educators that serve students with disabilities with training and helping them have more opportunity to understand the social and emotional impact of our students with disabilities. dentswe understand the prioriti. we will serve our educators and students and families with children with disabilities. >> thank you very mary much. secretary becerra, on the terms of health, we have a lot to talk about. let me make a reference to the question. but resources are now available for teachers and school administrators to support
students mental well-being during this time? >> senator casey, thank you for the question. i know this is a priority for you. we have made the largest investments in mental health, and substance use disorder in the history of these programs because of the american rescue plan you and others and congress passed. close to a billion dollars has gone out so far. we have put out close to five billion dollars for substance use disorder services. most of that money, as you are aware, is administered, run through to states, and so we have done more because you will pass to the american rescue plan we've ever done before. we know we have to do more. >> thank you so much. >> senator paul? >> mister becerra, are you familiar with an israeli study that had 2.5 million patients
and found the vaccinating group was seven times more likely to get infected with covid than the people who had gotten covid naturally? >> senator, i have to get back to you on that one. i'm not familiar with the study. >> i think you might want to be if you're going to travel the country insulting them alliance of americans, including nba star jonathan isaac who had covid, recovered, look at a city with 2.5 million people and said well you know what? it looks like my immunity is as good as the vaccine. in a free country, maybe they ought to be able to make that decision. myself included, flat earthers. we found that insulting. are you a doctor or medical doctor? >> i've worked over 30 years -- >> you are not a medical doctor. do you have a science degree? yet he travel the country, calling people flat earthers, who have had covid, looked at the studies of millions of
people and made their own personal decision that their immunity they naturally acquired is sufficient. but you presumed, somehow, to tell over 100 million americans who survived covid that we have no right to determine our own medical care. you alone are on high and you've made these decisions, a lawyer with no scientific background, no medical degree. this is an arrogance coupled with authoritarianism that is unseemly and un-american. you, sir, are that when ignoring the science. the vast amounts of scientific studies, dozens and dozens show robust long-lasting immunity after covid infection. even the cdc does not recommend measles vaccines if you have measles immunity. the same was true for smallpox. you ignore history and science to shame the flat earthers, as you've called them. you should be ashamed of yourself and apologize to the
american people for being dishonest about naturally acquired immunity. you want more people to choose vaccination? so why. we want to lessen vaccine hesitancy? so i. you want that to happen? stop lying to people at nationally acquired immunity. is top luring it over people as if these people are deplorable and on washed. try persuasion instead of government. try humility instead of arrogance. try freedom instead of coercion. most of all, try understanding that there is no more basic medical right then deciding what we inject into our bodies. moretoday, after hearing millis of people in the study proved show without a doubt that there is a great deal of immunity from getting it naturally. do you want to apologize to the hundred million americans who suffered through covid, survived, have immunity, and yet you want to hold them down and vaccinate them?
do you want to apologize for calling those people flat earthers? >> i appreciate your question, and appreciate everyone has their opinion. we follow the facts and science at hhs. we use the expertise of the medical professionals, scientists hhs to make decisions. it's a team effort and we rely on what is on the ground, showing its results. >> except for the dozens and dozens of studies. in fact, most if not all of the studies show robust immunity from getting the disease naturally. the cdc says if you have had measles and immunity, you don't have to be vaccinated. the same was true of smallpox. you are selectively during this because you want us to submit to your will. you have no scientific background, no scientific degrees, and yet you are really concerned about 100 million americans who had these issues. you want to tell us to do as you're told. that's what you are telling us. you want to mandate this on all of us. five 100 employees, you will put me out of business with
700,000 dollar fine if i don't obey what you think is a science. don't you understand it's presumptuous for you to be in charge of all science? you ever heard of a second opinion? i can't go to my doctor and ask my doctors opinion? this is incredibly arrogant, complying with an authoritarian nature you think, well, we will tell all of america to do what i say, and they, better or we will find, then put them in jail, not let some go to school, or travel. the science is against you on this. the science is clear. naturally acquired and unity is as good as the vaccine. the israel study is showing it better. this isn't an argument against the vaccine. it's an argument for letting people make a decision who already have immunity. you are now willing to consider natural immunity? >> senator, our team has reviewed every study that is out there on covid, whether it's from israel, from the u.s., or wherever else. they have used the facts that have been provided through the rigorous research that's been
done to reach conclusions. 660 odd thousand americans and more have died because of covid. we are trying to do everything we can to save as many as possible. we are using the facts, following the science, following the law. >> nobody is arguing the severity of this, but you are ignoring the signs of natural immunity. so is fauci, so there's a whole group. you are ignoring it because you want to submission. we want everybody to submit to your will, do as you're told, despite the evidence. the large body of scientific evidence that says naturally acquired immunity does work. it's an important part of how we will all recover from this. so is the vaccine. when you add them together, we're in a different place and if you ignore. than 100 million americans, conservatives, cdc estimate has the disease. 20 million or more now have been vaccinated. it's a good thing. combined together, it's how the disease is -- nobody wants the disease. we're not advising anyone to get the disease if you are lucky enough to get, it think of the nurses and doctors and orderlies who all really took care of covid patients.
there is no vaccine for a year and a half. they took care of people, risked their lives, and survived. people like you arrogant enough to say you can no longer work in the hospitals because you've had the disease. we will force you to take the vaccine the science doesn't prove could be saved by natural -- >> thank you, so much. >> thank you chair murray, and ranking member burr for this hearing. i would say secretary cardona and secretary becerra for being here today to discuss this issue, keeping our students safe and in schools. i would note, at the top, as the mom of a young man with severe disability, i am particularly grateful for senator casey's questions about what we are doing to help students with disabilities. it's not just that, of course, they need their individual education plans.
it's true as you pointed out, secretary cardona, often school is the only place some of the students can get certain kinds of services. in some cases, that might be physical therapy, occupational thereof, a speech and language. one schools are also prevented from taking public health measures, these students are often the most at risk for severe complications from covid-19. it's a catch 22 for parents. i want to thank senator casey and all of you for what you're doing to help protect children with disabilities. secretary cardona, i wanted to start with a question to you. in addition to the teacher shortages many have discussed, schools in new hampshire and across the country are struggling to fill openings, ranging from careful fashionable, social workers, the bus drivers and custodians. rolls essential to keeping our schools open for in-person learning. --
hiring bonuses and paying drivers to get kids to school. secretary cardona, how can the school district tuesday elementary and secondary school emergency relief funding to meet the staff needs in order to keep schools open and provide essential support to students? s open and>> thank you for yourn and comments about students with disabilities and the importance they are in our schools and we should be prioritizing that as we think about reopening. as we should about ensuring we addressed the workforce gaps. safely reopening schools mean we have enough to keep everyone safe and supported. we do believe the american rescue plan and funds can be used to make sure we are paying a salary that is competitive. people have options now. you know, i could tell you firsthand my own children's experience is being influenced by whether or not they are able to get a striver is to take extracurricular cavities. it is a real situation. if we are serious about reopening schools and making sure our children's have the
best opportunities not only to engage in the classrooms, extracurricular activities, getting to school on time, we have to be sure to address these gaps boldly. there are more funds available to our districts to address that. we also have to invest in pipeline programs to make sure that our dedicated educators have access to programs to become teachers themselves. i'm excited about the opportunity in the build back better agenda to make sure we are investing in our profession, paying livable wages, and making sure we create pipelines with incentives for educators to go in, to get their teaching credential, a disservice special education teachers, bilingual teachers. other shortage areas, it's all hands on deck's. we have the right policy and we need to make sure we are making bold decisions to let that happen. >> thank you. i want to turn now to the issue of learning gaps. one report estimates that due to covid-19, school closures last year, elementary students
were about five months behind where they'd be, and four months behind in reading. it's not addressed these gaps and where they will have a long-lasting negative effect on a lifelong successive students. secretary cardona, how could schools look to effectively identify the gaps and student learning and how is the department of education ensuring schools have what they need to do this? >> thank you. our students missed out on a lot in the last year and a half. academic gaps -- remote learning [inaudible] are significant. the reality is some students face more of it than others. it exacerbated opportunity gaps that existed. we recognize this, and also, part of a return to school roadmap, prioritize not only reopening and engaging and social emotional well-being, but also addressing the lack of instruction as students weren't able to access during the pandemic. released tragedies, we are
using the american rescue plan funding to address the impact of time as its own guidance document. in addition to the three handbooks we have that address learning loss, you know, ernie laws could be controversial. i don't want to victimize our students. a lack of access to instruction. we have handbooks out. they're more importantly, we are talking to states to see what they are doing. i was fortunate to see programs that tripled in size. after school programs that are happening because of the american rescue plan funds. they are working on that, and is a priority for educator across the country's. >> thank you. madam chair i realize i'm a little over. i do want to point out the department was very helpful to school districts and new hampshire, as they tried to use the secondary school emergency relief funds to improve the air quality and ventilation in schools. i look forward to submitting a question about how school districts can access those funds and work with the department to make sure the schools are safe. thank you. >> thank you.
senator cassidy? thank you. >> thank you.>> thank you all. thank you for being here. first, i associate myself with senator paul, his remarks as regards to the need for our cdc to look at the influence of natural immunity and its effectiveness relative to a vaccine. and i agree totally we tell americans natural immunity does not infer immunity. that goes against the science, i will say that. some of those very remarks. on that, absolutely. secretary becerra, if you could take that back to cdc, i would appreciate that. secretary cardona, i think we could agree on this. do you accept the primary purpose of a school is to educate a child? >> yes. >> it should be. we know this, by the way, social services, we don't want to ignore. my concern is during the pandemic, science, public
schools were much more likely to close. i'm looking at data from the -- and by the way, if we are going to look what's empirically works, if we are going to follow the evidence, and the primary goal is to educate a child, i think we have to look more broadly than, say, the use of masks. i'm looking at something from earshot with education services, and it is showing the nationally public schools only 47% were open in january of last year. catholic schools 89% and private schools, 92%. there's also significant disagreement from public schools as parents sought to have their child educated, even though they were being kept shut. -- recommendation among other things, the american academy of pediatrics. there's been hostility among democrats, frankly, and among
the administration as regards to chartered schools. seeing how charter schools actually, private vouchers and charter schools, actually give an alternative to a parent who is otherwise locked into a system that will not educate their child, why is there this hostility towards this alternative for the parents? >> thank, you senator. i do agree with you school reopening was critically important for all students across the country. i am pleased to say across the country, our schools are open. -- >> >> an extended period of time where children lost a significant amount of their education. by the, way this isn't about social justice. it was the minority child in the intercity schools that did worse by fire. some saying seven months of learning was lost all among african american children, and on urban children in 6 million, seven months with low income and six months for the african
american child. so, why are we holding our parents and our children prisoners to a system that ignored their educational needs when the science showed the schools could safely reopen? >> thank you for the question. i remember last spring, and even before that, working on reopening schools. but i can tell you is those schools, they were predominantly black and brown students, woefully underfunded. and they didn't have the funding to address the ventilation systems, to address some of the basic needs. >> secretary cardona, you want to tell me intercity colloquial schools that philanthropists had open up for these children 's, there was an older facility, didn't have similar problems, somehow did not attempt to adapt? i find that -- i just don't believe it. >> but i'm sharing with you, sir, is my visits, my experience as a commissioner, talking to superintendents, the visiting schools with
ventilation students that were untouched for ready 20 years, we make sure schools are safer students and staff. many of these same families were sharing their concerns about schools not being open. i am thankful for -- let me ask you. . that may be the case, i apologize. my wife's school managed. they made it work for those children who disproportionately are minorities. but why shouldn't the parents have the choice to take the child elsewhere? if you decides, well, maybe they have a lousy ventilation system but they have a good ventilation system, so i'm going to take my child to a private school with a good ventilation system, so my child does not lose education. why should she not have that choice? >> it is my belief that all
children should have access to a safe school, one where children can succeed. and that schools be given the resources -- >> if they are to have access and you demand that the school clothes, why would that access not include the ability to take dollars that would go to the public school, that are not open, that are not there for the kid, and take the child to a school that is open. yes or no, should that parents have a right to take their child? >> it requires more than a yes or no. it is more nuanced. we have been working closely with educators, including unions, to safely reopen schools. and all students have an opportunity to learn safely because of the work we have done. >> there has been a terrible loss of educational opportunity for those who are most vulnerable in our society. and frankly, our perception is, there is obscene essence to
teachers unions, to teachers unions. >> i am going to go over and vote right away. the next three senators are senator smith, senator romney and senator baldwin. >> thank you madam chair. and thank you secretary cardona and secretary becerra for joining us today. it is good to be with you. i will direct my questions to secretary becerra. mister secretary, i applaud the biden administration's commitment to keeping our children safe in schools through vaccinations, through masking, through ventilation and through testing. this includes the administration's recent announcement that they will ramp up production of rapid covid-19 tests and purchase two billion dollars worth of rapid tests, which can detect, as we know, up to 98% of cases that are infectious. so rapid in home tests are a
huge benefit to parents. because they can get quick results, so they know whether they can send students to school after they have been exposed and the classroom. it is also a huge help to schools that are frankly, i have heard, overwhelmed in some cases by asking educators to administer tests, to do contact tracing on top of everything else they are doing. rapid tests are a better alternative than lab based tests, which can be so frustrating that minnesota parents and students, as students are pulled out of activities and school, or put on hold. they are waiting for results. i believe both senator murray and senator kaine have raised this issue. unfortunately, rapid tests are difficult to get right now. so here's my question, secretary becerra. so experts believe that by reclassifying rapid covid-19
tests as a public health tool, rather than as a medical device, that this could help unlock a greater supply of tests while also reducing the price of those tests. could you talk to us about how the administration is thinking through this recommendation? >> senator, thank you. thank you, senator, for the question. i know this is on the minds of many people. not just here in this chamber but at home as well. as i mentioned before, and responding to some of the previous questions, we have the tests. it is getting them to the right source at the right time, it has been difficult. we are now coordinating in far greater ways with our state and local partners, whereas before it was at the point of contact with a test would be made, and requests could be made for those types of tests. what we are trying to do now is coordinate better, how all of this is done. when i will tell you is that between the money that was made
available, supplemental appropriation that you all passed, the money from the arp, we have been able to provide substantial funds. two billion dollars more recently. another two billion dollars was made available to try to make sure we are reaching everyone. can we coordinate better? we will try to do that with our local and state partners. we do not have the capacity to be the administrators of the tests at the federal government. but we can work with was on the ground to make sure we go where the tests are needed. >> he think there is an opportunity to think about we classifying these tests? how do you ...? >> that is something we can take a look at. i can get back to you as quickly as possible. and see if that is something we can consider. >> thank you. i would appreciate that. i think there is an opportunity there, given the high level of accuracy. and another tool that the administration could have, as you are working to ramp up these tests. so --
>> we will look at this tool as well. >> i also want to ask you a bit about the work we need to do to support students with disabilities, particularly in the context of what has been happening with covid -- pardon me, i should have said, secretary cardona, pardon me. this is about supporting students with disabilities, as we navigate through what has been such a difficult time in schools. i am particularly -- i just want to quickly highlight a couple of aspects of support for students with disabilities we are seeing in my home state of minnesota. there are many great examples. recently, we have seen educators at morehead public schools in northwest minnesota, they have shared with me how they have been able to make important investments in their students, thanks to american rescue plan dollars. so secretary cardona, could you quickly, in the second i have, discuss the departments
approach to supporting students with disabilities and their education and mitigating their learning loss? >> thank you for the question. and for the support of the great programs there. thanks to the arp. kids are back, you know, kids are back. that's the best thing we can do for kids with disabilities. they are back with their peers and teachers. the best thing we can do for students with disabilities is the same thing we do for all students. get them back in the school room with teachers. but for students that may have had interrupted learning, it is very important that we are monitoring where they are today. not where they were in march 2020. and make sure we are using funds to provide resources to provide support personnel with resources to give students what they need. thank you. >> thank you very much, secretary cardona. next up we have senator romney. >> thank you madam chairman. secretary becerra, i will clear
up a social media rumor that you spend most of your time outside washington d.c.. is the majority of your time spent in washington d.c.? >> in many ways, i would say, unfortunately, yes. as i still have a home in california as well. my wife is still in california. >> spend your time here, it's great. let me turn to another topic. i concur with senator paul and his concerns about natural acquired immunity with regards to covid-19. and i was disappointed in your response. i had expected you to either say one of two things. one, that the science is clear, that inoculation adds to ones protection against covid-19. and that he was wrong about the studies he described -- he said every single study that is better than vaccination. and i expected you to say, look, maybe it's the same but we cannot determine whether people have had covid or not.
and therefore we, out of an abundance of caution, we insist that they are vaccinated. could you please get back to the committee with an answer to his question? so that we can know where the science stands and where the administration stands? secretary team cardona, i note that, as young families are thinking of having young children, they consider the plans for what it will mean to have a child. and they consider about pre-k, about child care, about college expenses down the road. i know that in the presidents plan, the so-called reconciliation bill of 3.5 trillion dollars, the plan is that children -- childcare, rather, and early learning nor expire after six years. instead of ten years for the full program. the pre-k expires after seven years. and community college coverage expires after five years. do you think that young parents should therefore plan on these
programs disappearing in six, seven and five years, as proposed under the administration's legislation? >> thank you senator, for the question. we are at a point in our country's history where we have the opportunity for transformational change for our students and -- >> i totally agree. i don't want to go on a different topic here. the transformation, is this a prominent change? it's a transformation -- if it's a transformation, it's permanent. but if in five years these programs go away, that is not transformational, that is bait and switch. >> senator, i do think that families, especially post pandemic, providing community college access, that only helps the economy -- >> but should expire at the end, as his plans now -- >> i am hopeful senator that today goes really well for families across the country and that in the coming years we will find ways to continue to
support our strategies that we know lift american families -- >> you mean -- you mean it is your anticipation that these programs cannot be counted on to continue? >> that is the goal to have community -- college >> we'll, if that's the goal for these programs, not the five and six and seven years in the legislation, how are you going to pay for it? because there is only one of two ways. either more debt or higher taxes. which do you prefer? >> senator, i know that in this proposed budget, no one making under 400,000 dollars per year will see an increase in taxes. >> that's right away. but you say that when these programs are set to expire, you expect them to continue. and so your comments on taxation -- that is going to expire as well. >> what is being proposed a transformational for our families -- >> i agree it is transformational, i am not sure it is transformational in the right way. i am concerned that we will double the child tax credit,
which allows people to help pay for child care. at the same time, we are going to give them free pre-k for two years. why double? why give people free pre-k and double their child taxpayer credit which they could use themselves to either decide to care for their children at home, to go to head, start to go to a private childcare facility? why do we have to both double the child tax credit and at the same time provide free pre-k -- and by the way, bill the school classrooms to do so. >> sir, for me as a educator, early childhood education is a foundation for a strong program -- >> totally agree, but why would we pay for it twice? >> i have seen the benefit of it and i know that for many of these families, their ability to get back to work and add to their income is -- >> look, i am perfectly happy with providing funding to family so that they can provide child care for their child. i think they should have the choice of providing it themselves. either with a family member or
spouse. or number two, sending a child to a child care facility out their choice. but to say you will do that and we will also give you public school childcare, that is two programs, doubling the cost and it is taking away the incentive for people that may choose to decide to have childcare at home. i think my time is up. i am sorry, madam chairman, back to you. >> [laughs] thank you senator romney, senator marshall. >> okay, thank you madam chair. thank you,thanks to the secretr being here to talk about the education.on of health care and this is something near and dear to so many of us. if we talk about the highest causes of death for your students, for our students, it's accidents or trauma. suicide is number two, homicides three. cancer may be going up or down depending on which age group we are talking about. the focus this morning for me
is on the emotional health and the impact on the suicide rates from covid as well as our policies. that's what i want to focus on today. and especially what are mandates due to the emotional health of our children. i turn to the conversation of natural immunity just for a second. look, i have seen the data. all the moms out there have seen the data. the data natural immunity. i am telling you these mama bears are going to protect their kids. they don't see the benefit of a vaccine for something their children are already immune to. and there are risks associated with the vaccine. don't get me wrong, i have had the vaccine, my parents have had it, i hope my parents get their boosters soon. i am in favor of vaccines. but when we are talking about our children, and those that already have immunity, i think that many americans have concerned about this. and the emotional impact of
those kids getting kicked out of school because of this mandate. i think you both would acknowledge that getting kicked out of school has a huge stigma to it. and this is my question for you both, yes or no. if the cdc would acknowledge natural immunity and a child has antibodies, would you consider excluding them from the mandate? let me say it again. if the cdc would acknowledge natural am unity and a child has antibodies, would you consider excluding the child from the mandate? secretary cardona, yes or no? >> thank you senator. this question requires more than a yes or no. i know that states and local districts are the one making decisions around masks and vaccines. i will rely on them. would i have done, because i'm not a medical doctor, is rely on -- >> that's all my question is. so if the cdc acknowledges that a child has antibodies, would you support excluding that child from the mandate?
think of the emotional impact of that child being kicked out of school for something they are already immune to. and the suicide rate. secretary becerra, can you answer the question, yes or no? >> you will to be disappointed, senator, to know that [inaudible] ... you will be disappointed to know that it is not a yes or no answer. because science is not exact as quickly as you would like. what i can tell you is that we have looked at the science, we have looked at some of the studies, and in the state of kentucky, for example, with regard to children, there is a study that showed, that for those individuals, not just children, people who were unvaccinated who had had covid, showed that they were twice as likely to be re-infected with covid than those who had been vaccinated. >> we can argue about the studies all day. i am a physician, you are a lawyer. you probably don't want to go
down that road. because i am telling you, the huge majority of the studies show that natural immunity is better than the vaccination. the huge majority -- and let's not just talk about getting the virus, let's talk about more ability, mortality, hospitalisation. your jobs are to decide -- if the statement is true that i am saying, that natural immunity is better, that's up to the cdc. my question was, if the cdc would acknowledge it and a child has antibodies, would you excuse them from the mandate? we need to go on. i am very concerned about migrants coming across the border carrying infectious diseases as well. probably over 3 million migrants have come across the border illegally, legally, many of which are children. i am very concerned about not just their covid and what they are bringing but tuberculosis. haiti has the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the western hemisphere. measles, mumps as well.
what are you to going to do today to test those children before they get into our schools? and as well to make sure they get there -- -- >> thank you, we do have jurisdiction over some of those children who are unaccompanied. once they are turned over from customs and border protection. we make sure that no child is placed in any setting, whether in congregate care or in a license facility, or in the hands of a responsible custodian, without first making sure that they are free of covid and that they have had a vaccination. so we make sure that whether it is a u.s. citizen, no one can infect someone else. >> and secretary cardona, anything to add, students entering our school systems who have not been properly immunized or tested? >> students have access to meals, education and any health
care needs that they have to make sure that they are healthy. >> but there is a huge difference between access and it actually happening. we are overwhelmed right now, our schools are, with these children, 12,000 haitians recently have been turned into the united states. i want to share compassion and love with those folks, i have done mission work in haiti. i have been to the border. i understand the humanity of all of this. but i also don't want my grandchildren exposed to four kilo sis, let alone new variants of covid. >> -- >> madam chair, i yield back. >> senator baldwin. >> thank you madam chair. i am hoping we can get to three topics in my five minutes. can all related to how your two departments are working together with resources provided in the american rescue plan. i want to start with mental health services. senator casey earlier brought that up with you.
as we do reopen schools unrecognized the mental health toll that the pandemic has had on our nations youth and families, i think there should be a focus on making mental health care more accessible in schools. including by promoting and expanding the availability of school based mental health programs. and certainly working with the chair of this committee in working on other appointments, and elevate funding to expand school base mental health programs in wisconsin and across the country. can you talk about how your agencies are collaborating to expand access to mental health services in schools? and what else you need from
congress in order to advance this effort? >> -- >> and start with secretary cardona. >> i know you have three topics in the my colleague here wants to speak. thank you for bringing up the emotional well-being of students and the fact that we have to build back better. we can't go back to what we had before. our students have been traumatized. before the pandemic, we should have been doing more. the collaboration has been great. we recently had a road trip and the u.s. surgeon general joined. and we were talking about the imports of mental health access. i visited a high school where they are restructuring their day to provide for emotional well-being for 6000 high school students. and the arp funding is there for that. the one billion dollars in the build back better agenda, it doubled the number of social workers in school counselors. and outside agencies are coming in. i can continue, it is a
priority. return to school roadmap has as a priority. >> thank you. >> the microphone -- oh, there we go. i will simply add that the department of education and the cdc have been working closely to ensure that we are using the data properly. we are constantly making sure that we are informing districts as best we can. and so they're working together very closely. that's a good sign. as i mentioned, before we made historic investments in mental health. as a result of the work that you all did to pass the american rescue plan. and i will mention something important, not just something between departments but within my own agency, because we are so large. we have so many agencies that touch mental health. i established a coordinating council within hhs to make sure that we are all working together. the administration for children and families, others, to make
sure that we are working with our sister departments are not missing anything. >> the second topic i wanted to mention was the funding for testing in the american rescue plan. i am encouraged by the administration's efforts to follow the science. but unfortunately, conventional testing, especially in schools, has come with challenges. we have heard about some of them this morning. we need to make sure that we are advancing innovative approaches to keeping our kids and teachers healthy. at the university of wisconsin, we are working on a proposal to expand surveillance of respiratory viruses, including covid-19 and influenza, by collecting air samples from schools. unfortunately, they have been struggling to access funding from the american rescue plan, because entities in the state are focused on funding conventional diagnostic testing. how are your departments
working together to evaluate innovative approaches to testing that might be beneficial to schools and school settings? and will you commit to providing states with the flexibility they need to expand and enhance testing, including through innovative proposals? >> i will start off by saying, yes, we definitely recognize the importance of testing and accessibility to testing, surveillance testing for our students. that's how we kept our schools safe, that is how we will keep our children in the classroom, which is a priority for all of us. we have seen great examples in new mexico, new orleans, louisville, kentucky, and what we are doing is lifting up best practices. one side i visited with doctor murphy last week is an access family center where they provided testing and they partnered with the schools. so we went to see that firsthand to see how it works and we want to make sure that we are promoting best practices
across the country. >> senator, i will add that we are working together department wide. we have also provided about ten billion dollars through cdc directly to the school district so that they can start doing the testing that they need. we continue to provide technical assistance, collaborating with them, trying to give them guidance to know how best to use those resources. we are ready to do more. >> thank you. i will submit the last question for the record and you can follow up. but i wanted to know how your agencies are collaborating with experts in industries, in the ventilation space, to ensure that the improvement supported by the american rescue plan funding are designed and maintained in a way that, you know, promotes our health and minimizes illness among students, teachers and staff. >> i will have my staff follow up with you. thank. you >> thank you. >> senator tuberville.
>> good morning gentlemen. >> good morning. >> good to see you all. secretary becerra, i have been hearing from across the country, everyone is ready to get back to a normal knife life. specifically our teachers. we have been in full class most of our time in alabama. but teachers are concerned. they know that they will get exposed. there is no way around it. s no waythey want to know that y have an effective means once they get sick. for example, i had a teacher write me a letter. she got sick. and she goes to the hospital. and she is real sick. but they turned her back because there is no monoclonal antibodies. alabama hospitals have had a
pretty good supply over the last couple of -- i would say, four or five months, of the antibodies. secretary becerra, why did hhs take over the supply chain of monoclonal antibodies just in the last few months? can you give us a good reason? >> senator, thank you for the question. i'm glad you asked because this is something on the minds of a lot of folks. we have seen a tremendous increase in the demand for these monoclonal antibodies. let me give you an example. in alabama, in july, your state ordered, all those providers, they ordered a total of 6800 doses. in august, your state ordered over 45,000 doses. and less than two months, it went up that quickly. your state was not the only one. the difficulty is that with that immediate surge, trying to meet that demand became complicated. what we have done is that we have surged with that to make
sure that there are more. we are working with industry to make sure that they manufacture more. but what we thought was important is to make sure that every state, alabama, as any other state, had access to those monoclonal antibodies. so what we did was, let those therapies be secured onsite by anybody on site. we decided to let the state decide how to coordinate it. alabama would make sure that every alabama would have access to those antibodies. and so the formula for that district's public. you have that. we would ask you to take a look. because what we want to do is have transparency guide how we have those they are peace be distributed to all. >> it was my understanding that in the second quarter we had a huge contract with companies with monoclonal antibodies. and when they were ready to deliver, we said we don't need
them. this was in april. and i just want to know who in the world would turn those down in this time of need? it doesn't make sense. we went back to them, the companies, and said, luckily, we have held some of them but they had to crank back up. who would make that decision? >> remember, the request for use of monoclonal antibodies was coming from your state. and we were making sure that we were making the distribution possible. so we were meeting the needs until the last few months until the delta surge. and a lot of people were getting sick. by the way, seven states are right now taking in about 70% of all monoclonal antibodies. the 50 states contain seven states taking in these monoclonal antibodies for the most part. we are trying to make sure that the distribution is being done
fairly, equitably. and it is done transparently. there is accountability, as well, because we don't want to find that a alabaman went without those antibodies. >> i have taken the vaccine and it will not keep you from getting it, most of the time, it will keep you from getting it and getting really sick. i think everyone knows that. i think we also need more focus on testing. i focus on a lot of doctors, especially in school systems. we need to be testing almost every day or every few days. kids before they come -- now, they can have the virus. if we wait until they get symptoms, they have exposed others in their school. i just hope -- i heard you say about equity. and i hear people continue to talk about equity. and i believe in that. but we need to save peoples lives. we can't shut down alabama or at the state simply because we may not be taking as many vaccines. we cannot let people die. especially the teachers.
we are telling them to go back to school, and they want to go teach, but we can't do that. so i would hope that we would not get political with this. red states, blue states, it should not be about that. it should be about everybody, if they need it, they get it. we just need to be more prepared. so -- and secretary cardona, i have some questions for you, i will put it on record. madam chair, but thank you, very good answers, look forward to hearing from you. thank you. >> thanks very much. senator lujan. >> thank you to our distinguished witnesses for being available today. several studies have found that mask usage dramatically reduces the spread of covid-19, including one of rural schools and wisconsin that found that mask-wearing reduce the spread by 37%. secretary becerra, do you agree that wearing masks in schools reduces the spread of covid? >> senator, i think the
evidence now is overwhelming that good mask policy helps keep people safe. making sure that even if you are vaccinated, you continue to have a masking policy, indoors, it makes sense. especially for kids, because we have kids under the age of 12 who are not vaccinated. so there is no doubt that the science has shown us that masking works. >> secretary becerra and secretary cardona, i will ask you a series of yes or no questions. and i will ask you to try to get through them quickly, as i have several others. is the best way to keep schools open to deploy proven health measures like masking? secretary becerra? >> follow the science and follow the data helping keep people safe, yes. >> secretary cardona? >> the last year and a half have proven, mitigation strategies work. >> yes or no, that is banning localities from implementing public health measures, undermine the effort to keep schools open?
>> we have to use common sense and we have to do everything to keep our kids safe. we want to make sure that we are using the different treatments and therapies and strategies that keep market safe. and masking, vaccines, distancing, ventilation, hygiene, all of that works and we should be able to do all of those things. why should any parent not be able to do that? >> secretary cardona? >> the reopening data is clear. where they are more relaxed about strategies, there are more likely to have spread, about three and a half more times likely, -- >> does banning localities from implementing public health measures disproportionately impact students with disabilities and under-lying health conditions? yes or no? >> folks with disabilities are more disabilities susceptible to covid. the most effective way to keep them safe is the strategies that i just mentioned. >> secretary cortez anna? >> students are disproportionately impact when
poor policies are implemented. >> yes or no, has disinformation on covid-19 on tech platforms negatively impacted the response of getting kids back to the classroom? >> the fact should guide us, the data that show us where to go should guide us. not social media, not politics. so i hope that families concern for the kids safety at school will follow the science and the facts. >> secretary cardona? >> we are focused on following the science and communicating that on different platforms to make sure that our families are getting accurate information. >> it was recently announced that youtube is going to stop allowing disinformation videos on vaccines and on covid. i applaud them and i hope that social media platforms follow them. turning to the effective use of relief funds, you mentioned that school districts reporting on school emergency relief, and emerging effective diseases,
they form a critical lifeline, with the recent doubling of teacher vaccinations in new mexico, school worker shortages are one of the main reasons for school closures in my state. i am proud that my state took both steps, investing 38 million dollars in the american rescue fund, to set up a teaching fellows program to strengthen the teacher pipeline into new mexico schools. it also increase the number of school based mental health counselors. these funds are also building a more equitable education system by helping schools close the homework gap. secretary cardona, what other innovative uses of funds have you seen from states and districts that have kept schools open and kept education equitable? >> i was on a back to school road trip where i was able to see firsthand how our teachers and students are happy to be back. we are back in business because of the american rescue plan and funding from the federal government. i have seen ventilation systems
improved, i've seen students have access to social workers, parents have access to support in the school. i have seen better professional development. i have seen students in summer programs that are intended to get students to reengage after a year and a half after being in front of the screen, through the use of these funds. and colleges are also engaging schools in new ways, creating pipeline programs, all because of this program. i get a birds eye view and see the amazing things happening as a result of the american rescue plan. our students are fortunate that they have educators that are committed to meeting their needs when students come back. many great things happening in our schools today. >> thank, you appreciate it. i have some additional questions in the area of in-person learning and mental health. i will submit those for the record. again, i thank the witnesses for being here. >> thank you, senator collins. >> thank you madam chairman. being>> secretary cardona, i tk
all of us can agree that students suffer when they are not in school. and in order to avoid another year of learning loss, emotional turmoil and behavioural problems, some school districts are implementing a test and stay approach. what they do is, they allow asymptomatic students who test negative for the virus, to stay in school, rather than quarantine them after another student or staff member has tested positive for the virus. a recent study in the lancet suggested that the test and stay approach can be safe. there was a randomized trial that included more than 150
schools in breton. the case rates were not significantly higher at schools that allowed close contacts of infected students or staff members to remain in class with daily testing than those that required at home quarantine. so, if our goal is to keep schools open, it seems to me that we should be looking at the science. yet despite this evidence, the cdc has said that at this time, they do not recommend or endorsed a test to program, even though the consequences are that thousands of students in this country are once again not in school because of
quarantine. so my question to you is, do you agree with the cdc or do you agree with the lancet study? that school district that are using a stay in school and testing [inaudible] ? >> thank you senator for the question. and for communicating the importance of in-person learning. that is the best way we can get students the support they need after this year and a half. i recognize that there is emerging data or studies around this test to stay. to be frank, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked closely and listen to the science at the cdc. it has helped to safely reopen schools. so we will continue to work with the cdc. as their guidance changes, we will implement this how schools. but we will rely on our health experts who have guided us to this point.
>> but the problem is is that the guidance from our health experts over the past year has been conflicting and inconsistent. and that heightens the distrust in these institutions at the time when the public needs to be able to rely on them. i think the latest example of this confusing, conflicting advice has to do with the booster shots. and that leads me to my next and final question for secretary busts era. as a longtime director of the vaccine research review and our deputy are leaving this fall, in part because of the decision-making over boosters, this weekend the cdc director commented and conceded the
confusion in messaging around who should receive the booster. this was after she overruled the recommendation of her own advisory committee. to public health experts from brown and harvard wrote in the new york times, that the federal recommendations go, quote, well beyond the data. so how can hhs better ensure that public health agencies in this country at the federal level truly are following the science? and produce a consistent, reliable message? >> senator, thank you for the question. let me put it this way. covid does not run a little air
linear course. as we have seen with delta, you can dodge, it can get around and you can be strong and fast. we have to keep the pace. we have to wait for the science to give us a direction where to go. we are to turn. and to go back to what we said earlier, we have to use our common sense. i believe that director walensky used the signs and common sense to decide how best to make sure we keep americans safe. i think that the fda has done a tremendous job with the science that is also evolving with the variants, to make sure that -- if you have been vaccinated, chances are you will not die or be hospitalized. if you have been vaccinated, 99% of people dying today are unvaccinated. i think between the fda, the cdc and are different agencies, we have done the best we can, using the science to guide us and staying within the framework of the law.
>> thank you. senator hickenlooper. >> [inaudible] try one more time. >> still trying. >> [inaudible] >> usually a little light -- >> you are on, you are on. >> i apologize for the delay. l right,thank you both for youre and thank you for answering our questions in what are clearly difficult times. secretary cardona, let's start with you. we have seen drops in enrollment. colorado saw a drop in enrollment. i wanted to see if it is possible -- what are the ways we can try to recapture some of those students and is it possible to
give students the freedom to explore the flexibility for alternative methods -- for example, providing the tools, where it is appropriate, to learn outside? >> thank you for the question. disagreement has been an issue. and it is estimated that it is an issue for 3 million students across the country. we know that our students may be underserved by our education institutions are more likely to be students who are disenrolled. so our priority is to get students into the classroom, to knock on doors, to make sure we are using arp funds to create programs that did not exist. to reengage families and students. get them the support they need. part of this is data. we are requiring chronic
absenteeism dated to be reported from states, especially if they receive accountability waivers. we are expecting more information on chronic absenteeism to make sure that we are focused on their students not only those impacted by the pandemic but those who will return to school. we have provided at least three handbook strategy updates on how to get those students reenrolled. and i have to tell you last week i listen to examples and i talked about examples firsthand, around what is happening across our country. we have programs in different states where there are teachers going out now knocking on doors and getting students back into the classroom. there is a program in connecticut that has social workers knocking on doors. in ohio, i was introduced to a teacher leader there who spent time over the summer knocking on doors, bringing students back in. because students are more likely to engage when they see someone they know. and then with the outdoor instruction, we know that one of the innovative practices
that came out of last year was learning outdoors. this is a practice that i hope continues when we reopen our schools. students enjoy it more and we know that they enjoy it more when they are out with their peers. that is a strategy that i hope to see continue in our schools. >> great. thank you very much. i have seen that you have been everywhere, all over this country. so i give you tremendous credit for putting it in at a time when it was so needed. i really appreciate that. >> thank you. >> and i would say the same thing to secretary becerra, you have been all over the country. as senator murray and others know, i have been focused on getting full funding for pandemic preparedness. the biden administration called for 30 billion dollars to invest in research, manufacturing, infrastructure. to create a library so we are prepared for the 25 families a virus that the next pandemic will come from. we have seen estimates that, when you average it over 100 years, the cost to society is
in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. and yet for over four years, for 13 billion dollars, we could make sure that we could get a vaccine within 100 days. now 320 days like this last time, which was a miracle. but within 100 days. anyway, i want to see if a discussion like this allows your agencies [inaudible] >> first of all, i think the comments i am seeing are there is of an executive, that is ahead of the curb. we are trying to get ahead of the next pandemic because we know something will follow covid. so we are trying to make those investments now. we are working, to make sure that whether it is the cdc, or nih, they are thinking beyond what we know. that is why this funding will take us to the next level. and be more nimble and do the
things we need to do. we know that the supply chains need to be worked on, to make sure we do not have a situation again where we don't have enough masks. we have learned a lot, we have learned a great deal. covid has taught us a lot. but we need people who have that mentality of thinking, what is next? rather than just waiting until what happens. >> thank you. i appreciate. it's one thing to learn the lesson about making sure that we put the lessons we have learned into practice is equally important. thank you both of you for your service. i yield back to the chair. >> thank you, senator murkowski. >> the thank you madam chairman. appreciate you being here. importance caution here this morning. many colleagues have touched on the issues i want to raise. rather than try to repeat, let me go into a couple of different areas. obviously, this past year and a half we have really learned the
benefits of distance learning. how we are able to connect virtually, and while it is not the ideal, i think we recognize that it has helped to facilitate learning, particularly in some very remote areas. my state is one where we have many parts of the states that are either unserved or certainly underserved and it has made distance learning very much a challenge. in certain areas, the underserved status comes about because of the cost, the cost to deliver broadband to these communities is prohibitively expenses. expensive. you can have a family paying 800 dollars a month to receive their services, their internet. and the slow and cumbersome and
does not work for anyone. we have, i think, done a lot to address the inequity that we know exists within access to broadband. and bipartisan infrastructure bill, it is another great example of the work that we can continue to do their. but we know will take time to build this broadband capacity. the fcc has been working on a pathway to allow schools to use their funding for broadband, to be in the instruction, basically, into students homes. as i understand it, it has not yet been finalized, this rule. so to you, secretary cardona, are you working with the fcc to get that work finalized? do you know where we are?
>> thank you senator for bringing up the importance of making sure our rural communities get the support that they need. this does impact we will communities greatly. broadband access is difficult to come by. we have spoken about this and i recognize the challenge for students in your state to access online earning. we are working with the fcc to move the process along. i can have someone reach out to you with updates so that you have more up-to-date information. >> i would appreciate that, because i am getting those requests and i don't have anything definitive to provide them at this point in time. another concern i am hearing is, all right, we have lots of money for tests, whether it is for the rapid test, whether it is for the tests that you are able to take home. but having access to federal funding doesn't necessarily
mean that you can find those tests. and i am hearing that only from schools but i am hearing from businesses that are worried about this mandate coming out of the administration that says, either get vaccinated or get testing, but there is no place to get the testing. certainly not to get the rapid test. you have indicated in response to senator smith's question, secretary becerra, that we have the tests out there but it is difficult to get them distributed. i don't know whether that is just within the schools. but you need to know that right now there is a real crush to be able to get the testing that can't get the results back in a timely enough manner to make a difference. right now, you go into the anchorage international airport, which i do every time i land,
and there are no rapid tests available. they say it is due to a national shortage. they have a sign posted. so where are we? how can we assure people that if you want to test, whether for work or school, we can't just say well, we have put lots of money out there, we need to know it is getting out folks. >> senator, i think he will agree that we have seen a surge in these last couple of months. delta has been the driver and all of this. >> alaska is number one and we don't want to be number one. it is very, very challenging right now. >> i want to mention that we are getting ready to move forward on telehealth. i know broadband is an issue with telehealth. we can talk about that later but i will tell you in terms of testing is that the fda has moved forward in providing testing opportunities. i think there are up to some
400 types of tests that may be available. we are trying to work closely with the manufacturing base of the industry to make sure that they know what supplies will be needed, we are trying to coordinate better now with the state and local governments. we are trying to let the states help us to determine where the tests should go, rather than people in any part of the region can dictate where they should go. so we make sure there is a sufficient supply for each state. we make sure that there is a close partnership with our teams, state and local, to make sure we are coordinating well. because in some places there is adequate supply. in other places there is not. so we have to make sure that we coordinate well. >> i think we recognize that we will be living with us, having this in our schools a lot longer than any of us would like. and so the availability of tests and the affordability of tests and a quick turnaround of tests is going to be have to be made clear. >> thank you. >> senator [inaudible]
. >> thank you madam chair, i want to follow up with senator murkowski on this. because it's the one thing that everyone on this committee agrees on. vaccination is sadly political, there is political turmoil about it. i wish there wasn't. and masking there is political turmoil about it. but everyone here in this committee think there ought to be a lot of tests and they ought to be cheap. and secretary becerra, i want to follow up with you on this. when you said there is adequate supply, they are distributional problems. that may be true but it is not true that there is an adequate supply of affordable tests. the cheapest test that is a rapid covid test that you can get over the counter is 12 dollars a test. they come into packs. the second test is a quiddel test. in germany you can get a test for less than one dollar. in india, a rapid test is three
dollars and 50 cents. the uk provides 14 free tests to everyone in the united kingdom. the studies have shown that adults -- if the tests our dollar or two, they will get testa make sure they can go to work. they will test their kids. but if it is 15 dollars, the willingness to regulate test yourself dramatically goes down. and so since i think there is bipartisanship on the issue of, we ought to have testing that people can afford, why are tests in the united states so much more expensive than in countries like germany or india or the united kingdom? what are we doing to make sure that the costs are cost of people can afford? >> senator, great question. i'm not sure i can give you the full answer. but let me give you a shot at giving you something. remember that germany and those european countries have a federal system that lets them move much faster than we can.
we have systems that allowed the 50 states to dictate so much of this. as i mentioned, some states prepare better, and what we are trying to do is coordinate more with them. among the billions of dollars that you made available to us, the supplemental appropriations for the rescue plan, it's about 43 billion dollars made available for testing. ten billion, by the way, is specifically for schools. i mentioned earlier that president biden is making sure that industries are manufacturing sufficient supply. so we are trying to work closely with our state and local partners to make sure that we coordinate. so we can make sure that we are hitting spots that need it most and we are not running out of supply. >> i will probably ask this for the record or maybe at a follow-up hearing. but i would like to hear what your metric is for not just supply but with the cost should be for someone who goes to a
pharmacy to bind over the counter test. because again, if the research shows that people will get tested if it's a dollar or three dollars, but they won't get tested for 15 dollars, we can have all the supply you want. if the cost is unaffordable, and people will not take advantage of it. and the one we agree on, testing, we will not be able to accomplish. so i would hope to get some metrics from you all around the defense production act to just expand supply. i hope you have a metric about supply. i will follow up on. that and i want to follow up and say secretary cardona, good to see you. i'm worried about teacher shortages. and of school bus drivers, guidance counselors. in my hometown, there are 435 vacancies at the start of the school year. it has been a very difficult time for teacher so what are you all doing around that
problem? and focusing on teacher recruitment and teacher preparation? because i think this is a challenge across the country. >> it is. thank you senator. we are reopening schools with a goal. we are children are back in school, we are back in in-person learning and there are so many other needs that we had focus on. the teacher shortage was exacerbated during the pandemic. we need to make sure we are being creative and innovative with programming to make sure that we have pipeline and recruitment programs. we have educators, climate specialists, liaisons in our building. we have to work with higher ed that make sure that there are pathways to get into the profession. i saw a great program at the great university of wisconsin madison. they are doing that. they have folks that are in turning and getting a job in school for their masters. so there are funds available in the agenda to help accelerate
this, especially in special education, bilingual education, and some of the other shortage areas. but we have to make sure that we are elevating the profession by making sure that we provide the support that they need, making sure that teachers are safe. and making sure that we are promoting the profession as a viable option and that teachers are getting a livable wage as well. >> senator collins and i have a bill called the prep act, focused on making new pathways into the profession. and i look forward to working with you on that. >> senator brown. >> thank you madam chair. i have two questions for secretary cardona and one for secretary becerra. i know you were in indiana recently and everyone is trying to do it safely, school reopenings. it's different for everyone. in some cases the meetings are
rowdy. in this one it was around critical race theory. and i think that civic engagement -- i was on a school board for years. you will get a earful from someone, i always tell people. when i was a little disturbed and i want to see if you really meant the comments. it was in relation to how -- and why are they doing this? i will quote this. your response was, i think it's a proxy for being mad that their guy didn't win. i'm quoting it verbatim here. i know you probably didn't mean that. i will give you a chance to retract it. is that something you want to take back. >> i know that across the country school board meetings are a little bit more intense. but i will tell you that school boards are unwavering and providing a safe learning
environment -- >> wet about the statement? when you want to take that back? and now politicized something where, i think it is an honest and sincere difference of opinion across the country. i don't know that i would want to be on record with that. >> senator, i will tell you that the lack of civility in some meetings is disappointing and frustrating, especially because of superintendents and educators, and you should know, you were a board member, they have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe environment. >> i know it can get rowdy. i take it that you don't want to retracted at this point. >> very dangerous at some point points. >> indiana has led the nation in school choice. coming through the pandemic i think it's clear that pandemic parents should be the drivers in this equation. i think parents in k-12, especially with some that have had kids pursue a four year degree and they end up in the basement with a non marketable
degree, they need to have more [inaudible] . they pay property taxes, tuition, room and board. very quickly because i want to get to secretary becerra. do you think that parents should be in charge of education as the primary stakeholder? >> i believe that parents are important stakeholders but educators also have a role in determining programming. >> i think that is going to be a little out of focus on what you will find across education. since they pay the bills, they raise the kids, they probably need to be the primary spokespeople for their own kids good education. should parents have more school options, including private schools? >> as i said, in previous hearings, i believe public education and schools should be the first and best option. parents should have option and i do across the country. >> so it sounds like you think
there may need to be more options. i came from a great public school system. i think competition and choice exceeds other things. should the money follow the student or should follow the school? >> i believe education system should have strong schools for all students. we need to make sure that we invest in public schools because for some students, that is their only option. we need to have that be a high quality option for all students. >> thank you. secretary becerra, we have been navigating and fighting through coronavirus which has been challenging in many respects. the baseline of fighting it has been vaccines. some countries are under 10% vaccination rates. we can see variants come from there, normally. what is your opinion on making it a tripod of therapeutics of
prophylactically? i know pfizer is out there, i think addressing a real market need, that we not only keep doing what we are doing on vaccines, but we put equal emphasis on getting it and preventing it in the first place and also curing it. >> thank you senator. >> when will we start pushing it from this level to where we give resources and emphasis to a more broad based approach? >> i think at hhs we have been doing that. because the fact that we are able to meet so much of the demand these days for therapeutics is a sign of that. i want to make sure that it is all of the above. and as mommies always tell me, [speaking spanish] , it is better to prevent them to remediate. so masking and all those things that prevent us from dying are the most important things you can do. >> great, glad to hear you are on board with a broader approach with remediation and
protection from the first place. thank you. >> thank you. >> i want to thank the witnesses. they are being no edition all senators, this has been an important hearing. both the information put on the table and other questions. but i think follow-up will help us do our work. i want to thank my colleagues for their work and secretaries cardona and becerra, and for having this conversation with us. i look forward to hearing from you and working with you both, as we work with students and educators get through the pandemic and grapple with the challenges that we discussed today so that are -- many of the issues we discussed today are about workplace equality and the community. any senator who wants to ask additional questions should get those questions in for the record on or before october 15th at 5 pm. the record will also remain open.
next, a discussion on cybersecurity from american and european perspectives, at a event hosted by the center and strategic international studies, officials discuss -- this runs an hour. >> i work at sea if s and i've worked at cybersecurity for a while. pardon me. today's agenda we'll have opening remarks, fro