tv Education HHS Secretaries Testify on School Reopening During COVID-19... CSPAN October 21, 2021 7:53am-10:12am EDT
viscera. live coverage here on c-span3. >> -- on how we with help schools across the country help to safely reopen for inperson learning. while we are again unable to have this hearing fully open to the public or media for inperson attendance, live video is available on our committee website at help.senate.gov. and if you are in need of accommodations including closed captioning, you can reach out to
the committee or office of congressional accessibility services. this pandemic has been incredibly hard on students and families and educators. for over a yore 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 were left struggling to keep one the shift to remote learning. every student's learning was disrupted in some way. and educators and school leaders found themselves trying to meet student's needs through a screen making their already challenging jobs even tougher. i heard from so many families in washington state about these challenges and how devastating this crisis has been. my goal since the start of the pandemic has been to get students back in the classroom safely for inperson learning. and i know that has been shared by members of this committee on both sides of the aisle.
and while no one thinks our work is done. we have fought to make our goal a reality by working to get relief straight to schools over 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 like providing masks and tests and improved ventilation. to keep students connected, like making sure they have access to technology and the internet, to accelerate their learning like offering summer learning and high quality tutoring. and to have 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 inperson learning. but as the delta variant has shown this pandemic is far from over. we saw nearly a 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 closure this is school year related to covid outbreaks. meaning children have their learning once again interrupted and parents work plans up ended as they needed to take care of their kids. families are exhausted. everyone wants to get back to the classroom and stay the. but to get there we have to continue working to keep students safe. and we have more than a years worth of data now. public health experts like those at cdc, in state and local health departments made clear what works. mask, ventilation, physical distancing, testing and getting everyone vaccinated who is eligible, which is especially 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. the work that the biden administration has done to promote common sense public health measures is o important. its been a relief to have leaders in 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 otherwise. and i wish every elected official took the same approach. unfortunately in too many parts of our country, the basic steps that could keep students and educators in communities safe have been politicized. so much so that instead of promoting basic steps, like wearing masks and schools, some republican governors and state legislators have been trying to outlaw them. schools have been pushed to this brink by this pandemic. but 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 are not only ignoring and in some cases denying the fact that we are in a pandemic, they
are making denial a badge of honor. 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. new 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 requirement rls half that of those without them. for anyone truly 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 the school leaders who are being threatened and harassed for doing the right thing. it is 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 whose immunocompromised or a sibling who is too young yet to be
vaccinated. and it is not a game to parent who is 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 policy makers to take this pandemic seriously. now looking down the -- today i know there are a lot of perspectives on covid-19 represented here. but i hope all of us can send a message that the basic public health measures we need to have kids keep safe and learning in school 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 has not gotten vaccinated should get their shots. states and localities need to keep following the science and doing what works to keep kids safe and learning in school. the biden administration needs to continue to build on the progress made so far to promote vaccinations, increase testing
capacity and make 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 fairer that. means addressing the sharp drop in enrollment this pandemic caused, the sharp rise in mental health issues among kids. and the fact that covid has set many students' learning back significantly, particularly students whose families are on low income, students of color, english learners and students with disabilities. it also means addressing the inequities and 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 on these 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 bury for his opening remarks. >> thank you madam chairman.r f opening remarks. >> thank you madam chairman. >> private schools mostly stayed open in the highs and lows of the pandemic. but public schools have now taken steps to ensure that students and teachers are able to get back to school and back safely. these based on lessons learned from schools that stayed open during the pandemic. for example, a study out of duke university and unc showed inperson learn category continue with minimal transmission of covid by being thoughtful,
having a plan, taking common sense steps to make students and teachers safe. more good news. thanks to operation warp speed and the development of vaccines, most teachers are vaccinated, though that number needs to get higher. and now this boosters are available for workers in high risk settings who got the pfizer vaccine, i hope teachers will get the booster as well. hopefully individual who is received moderna and johnson and johnson vaccines will have information on boosters 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 doze of their vaccine for childrens age 5-11 and have submitted that data for fda review. it is my hope that we'll have a vaccine for children under 12 very soon. and good news continues with therapies.
we have at least six effective treatments for those who get covid. and more treatments are under way. unless of course this congress were to pass legislation that opposes price controls that kill the incentive to innovate and explore science so more treatment and cures can be developed. i've said from the very beginning of this pandemic that vaccines and therapeutics are going to be our way out. we've seen the power of these vaccines and treatment asks we all have the ability to do what we can to turn the tide on this fand. i encourage every american who is eligible for a vaccine or a booster shot to get it, without delay. while all that is good news. the administration needs to do a better job getting therapeutics approved and working with the industry to increase supply of therapeutics that work. now for the bad news. we're here today to hear from
the biden administration secretary of health and human services and department of education about their efforts. welcome back to our hearing room. the president had says open schools is a national priority. i agree. the responsibility falls squarely in your hands to develop the federal response and to help state and local leaders have the tools they need to keep schools open and students and teachers safe. but i'm very displeased that your staffs have failed to live up to the commitment you both made to me privately and publicly to be responsive to my oversight requests. on august 25th, i sent you both letters asking a series of questions i received from students, parents, teachers, school administrators and public health officials from my state. from people across the country. as well as many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in 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. in fact this letter was aimed at helping you inform this committee about what was happening around the country as schools were already in the process of welcoming students back in the classroom. when i wrote the letter. in many places in the country we're almost two months into the school year. so this is really isn't a back to school hearing. it is a back in school hearing. in many places in our country we share goals as to how to help school districts stay open, which is why i sent the letter in august. i asked about the $97.8 billion
in testing money made available to hhs to learn how it was being implemented and whether head start would have access and how we were accounting for the testing needs of private schools in your plan. of course the schools are still asking about testing. it seems you have failed to communicate to them how to access these dollars. i asked about the supply chain of tests and testing strategies because people still 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 we've made in scaling up the capacity last year. i also asked about the $190 billion. in funding for our schools, and why 92% of that money still remains unspent. you can't have it both ways. either the money was urgently
needed and should be spent quickly or schools don't need the money and it should be reallocated to other priorities tied to covid. this isn't a slush fund for unrelated priorities of future needs. i also asked for a snapshot of basic data about infections. breakthrough cases. hospitalizations and fatalities. so we could have a clear picture of what's 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 and this committee. i asked about the availability of therapeutic for children to help ensure children who get covid have access to life-saving treatment asks that parents and health professionals know about those in advance. i asked about the scientific evidence behind masks, because the more you can share sound science and data, 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. which brings me to the inappropriate use 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 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 encourage masks or use the bully pulpit to criticize and condemn those with mandates. abusing the powers you have to try to bully your political opponents into submission is a step too far.
i turn to you for your agency's help in developing clear and consistent answers to questions from my constituents. people around the country, and more importantly my colleagues who will vote on what that pathway is in the future. waiting for over a month for reply is not acceptable. this is the first time either of you have appeared before our committee since you were confirmed. if you aren't going to respond to oversight letters in a timely fashion we certainly can't wait six months to reappear before this committee again to answer critical questions from the american people. maybe we should just ask you to appear before us once a month until the pandemic is over so that we make sure we're getting responses to these and other vital questions in a timely fashion. the reason i raise the importance of our oversight work is that it helps to inform us where to go legislatively. as we transition into 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'll need to determine how to manage a potential surge in the demand for testing and treatments that will come with the holiday season. we need a clear, straightforward strategy of what needs to happen the next 90 days and beyond. last week some of my colleagues and i wrote jeffrey ziets to ak about a administration strategy 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. reckless tax and spend agenda of partisan majority is threatening to tear apart this congress and the country. . you have the bearest of
majorities. three seats in the house. only the vice president breaking a tie in the senate of the republicans get the role of chair and democratics the role of chair and republicans the roll of ranking. it is not the moment for grand and sweeping legislation to reshape every aspect of the american family on your own. it is unconscionable to take issues in this committee's jurisdiction, propose to spend $723 billion on these priorities without a hearing, without a markup where we can offer amendments, without consulting anyone outside of those writing this terrible piece of legislation, about the real world effects of these proposals on faith-based providers, on small mom and pop child care providers, on the cost of college and state oversight of community colleges. if you succeed in ramming through partisan legislation like this, republicans and democrats may no longer be able to agree on higher education. or child care. or national service or even
public health. bipartisanship means getting some, not all, of your wish list. bipartisanship means having to accept the other side may have some good ideas. we reach on easy compromises here. we work ideas out. so that more, not less, of the elected members of congress that representatives of the american people can say yes. it sometimes is slow. it is frequently messy. but it brings about unity and lasting change that is supported by the american people. if that is not the goal, i don't know why any of us are here. madam chairman.
>> thank you. secretary bis ra, secretary card anyway thank you for joining us. i'm pleased to welcome you back before this committee and look forward to your testimony. secretary bass ra, we will begin with you. >> at hhs, the health and safety of students families and school personnel is our top priority, always, not just during a pandemic. covid has robbed so much from our children. a safe and comprehensive learning environment, a normal school year, time with mentors and friends. for some the costs have been 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. it is the empty chair at the dinner table, the open seat in the bleachers. it is the quiet homes and
crowded hospitals. it is not having the chance to say goodbye. that is the real story. we owe it to our children to make the classroom as safe, nurturing and instructive as possible. every step we take, and take together can save lives. that is our mind set at hhs. thanks to president biden's leadership and robust funding from congress our department has made critical investments in covid mitigation to help schools stay open safely. we've learned a great deal in 18 months. vaccination, masking, testing, increase hygiene, distancing and improved ventilation all can significantly reduce covid-19 transmission when layered appropriately. and vaccinated americans is the most effective prevention strategy for our schools. the science is clear. chart one. while the covid-19 rate for children increased nationwide, data from august show children and adolescents in low
vaccination states are being hospitalized at four times the rate of their peers in high vaccination states. add in data for adults and the lesson is undeniable. from chart 2 today, covid is attacking our children our least-vaccinated population, at rates even greater than adults in states with low vaccination rates. that is why this administration is taking several steps to turn the delta variant tide. hhs will require the nearly 300,000 educators at head start program to be vaccinated. our centers for disease control and prevention, cdc, is working with partners to broadcast the importance of vaccinating children, teachers and school personnel. hhs is also coordinating plegs campaign that lifts up more than 14,000 trusted community voices to remind everyone that vaccinations are safe and effectivemore than 14,000 trust community voices to remind everyone that vaccinations are safe and effective. our food and drug administration acknowledged it will follow the
science for covid vaccines for children younger than 12. the agency is working around the clock. i'm hopeful pediatric covid-19 vaccines will be available in the coming months from children 5-11 years of age. our national institute of health, nih is 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. and thanks to the american rescue plan, community health centers have administered nearly half a million covid vaccines to 12-18 year olds and conducted more than 25 hundred vaccination events at school base clinics, mobile vans and pop up clinics. testing is another cornerstone of our strategy. in april hhs provided $10 billion for screening testing to help schools reopen safely and more than 2 billion to scale up testing in underserved populations. we partnered with the department of defense to make $.650 in investments, to expand testing
through k-8 schools and underserved congregate settings. masking has also shown extraordinary results. on september 24th. cdc published data that show schools without in school mask requirements were three and a half times more likely to have a covid outbreak than schools with an inschool mask requirement. the pandemic is not only taking lives, it is devastating our kids' mental health. and we're not waiting to act. in may, hhs announced 14 million dollars from the american rescue plan to expand access to mental health care by integrating telehealth services in pediatric care. we made the largest investment ever in mental health and substance abuse block grants to states. and in august our substitute abuse and mental health services
administration, samhsa. over the past months met with -- i met with faith leaders in oklahoma. families in dallas. health workers at hospitals in new orleans. i've seen first hand the resilience of our people. they are counting on us to keep their children, tomorrow's leaders, healthy and educated. but as robert f. kennedy reminded us, their future is not a gift. of a guarantee. it is an achievement. i appreciate your support for hhs through this crisis and i'm committed to working with all of you to achieve the healthy future for our children, and it is what they deserve. thank you. >> thank you secretary becerra. i'll turn over to secretary card anyway for a statement. >> good morning chair murray and ranking member burr. i'm honored to be alongside my colleague and friend, secretary xavier becerra. speaking about the critical work
of safely reopening nation's schools for inperson 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 that the vast majority of america's 50 million students are in school full time learning in person. schools are the heart beat 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 s.t.e.m. laboratories, music and theater. social services and nutritious meals. especially schools also empower parents and caregivers to get back to work and access the violate services 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 reconnecting with friends in 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 supports they need to thrive. first, the american rescue plan or arp has been 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, 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. but these funds are just the first step. at the department of education, we're a service agency. we're supporting districts to implement arp funds and sharing best practices. we released multiple resources and have convened conversations with education leaders to provide tailored support for schools and districts. we spend a lot of time listening. our work is far from over. but we have seen great progress. when the biden administration took office, 23% of k-8 schools were operating fully remote. by may just 2% were remote. i'm proud to say that we're going to be launching a data dashboard soon where you can see reopening data throughout the
country in realtime. currently about 96% of school districts are oh open for inperson learning. only a handful are using remote models for brief peters to contain spread of covid-19. despite an increase in variant of covid-19 about a month before school started, america is back to school. moving forward we'll promote health and safety in schools. we'll support students social and emotional needs and we'll accelerate students academic learning. and health and safety, we know mitigation strategies work. the data is proving that. we cannot risk another year of shuttered classrooms and canceled sports performances or extra curriculum activities. we owe to it our students and to our families to follow the science and implement evidence-based mitigation strategies in schools. such as masking and physical distancing. regarding our students' social
and emotional development, they have suffered enough. students wellness must be factored into the reopening. school districts are determining their students needs in hiring social workers and school psychologists and implementing new mental health supports. and finally, we're assisting school districts in their work to address lost instructional time. not only as an educator, but as a father, i can tell you that learning in front of a computer is no substitute for inperson learning. districts are using arp funds to invest in tutoring, extended learn time and much more. despite the adversity we've faced i'm more optimistic about the future of education than ever before. i seen teachers face unprecedented challenges with determination, creativity and an unwavering love for their students. i've seen families come together to support the education of the children. i've seen leaders make tough decisions knowing they are not
always going to be popular but they are putting the students' needs first. and i've seen students flourish. the resilience is our priority at the department of education. the education system we had before march 2020 is not the goal. we can and we must do better. thank you, and i look forward o your questions. >> thank you very much secretary cardona. it has been a challenge the last year and a half to know how to keep ourselves and our families safe. especially when it comes to children in schools. some states are following 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 -- 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 are not happening consistently for our families. i think it would be helpful for parents and families to hear straight 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'll start with you. >> thank you for the question. and we share that goal to make sure that we're building confidence in our schools. so if parents feel comfortable sending their children, all children. and its been very clear. with have a years'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 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 the illness isn't serious if students do contract covid-19. quarantining when students do have covid or are, were 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're communicating what we're doing to keep students safe. it is our responsibility to follow the science, as my
colleague here secretary ra has shown. >> secretary becerra? >> 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 that inch of 12, it is 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 very clearly those places who don't use mast masks in school are three and a half times more likely to create an outbreak in the school than those who do you masks. as senator burr said. it is common sense. none of us here would enter a car and start driving without buckling up.
20 years ago people protested seat belts. today we don't. we know how effective they are. same with mask, social distancing, same with better ventilation. we know what works. it is common sense. and i would just tell each and every parent please use common sense. don't let anyone stop you from protecting your kids. >> thank you to both of you. you know, since the early days of this pandemic, i've been very focused on making sure testing is widely available as a tool to prevent and respond to outbreaks. and i was as you all know frustrated with the trump administration's failure to identify a testing strategy and communicate effectively. i pushed hard to make progress on that fronted i know the biden administration moved quickly to fix many of the early issues with testing but i want you to know i am troubled however by the continuing testing challenges which includes 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 the get vaccinated. so secretary becerra i 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. >> first i want to make sure it is clear, there is a supply of test kits available. it is at the demand has grown dramatically and demand for certain types of tests, so that the distribution has been difficult to get to certain places. but generally speaking, nationwide, there is sufficient total testing capacity across the nation to meet our needs. and this includes the combining of all lab-based, point of dare and over the counter testing.
-- 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 can get into contracts for manufacturers to expand production and actively engaged with states to mitigate supply chain constraints while the domestic manufacturing expands to meet the demand. but we've seen in the last few months demand increase month over month some 300 to .650%. and its been a demand that's not been evenly spread and that is why you see pocket where is people say this is a shortage. there is sufficient supply. it is just getting to it right places and coordinating well. >> thank you. senator burr. >> thank you madam chairman. again i welcome the secretary this is morning. secretary becerra you had an enterprise in the u.s. government that incorporates many of the agencies that drive
covid policy in the country. let me ask you. are you supportive of a mandate for covid vaccines for 12 year olds and over in k-12 education? >> senator thank you for the question. this administration from the president on down has been very supportive 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 olds and over in k-12 be vaccinated? >> senator, again, if you ask me the question as the secretary of health and human services, i can tell you that my jurisdiction does not include schools and requiring 12 year olds but -- >> you represent an enterprise that drives all of the policies that go into covid. does the hhs secretary, is he supportive of mandating that k through 12, 12 years and over,
that they mandatorily be vaccinated. >> i am very supportive personally and of secretary of health and human services after local jurisdiction of a governor who says it is time to keep our kids in school 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, senator. >> okay. secretary cardona. do you believe parents ought to control whether their children are vaccinated and whether to have input into 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 that schools are adequately able to engage student parents through the
process. >> now, you do support mandates on 12 year old and over in k through 12 because you and i had a conversation on the phone on that. >> i support efforts that states and districts are doing to protect students and staff so they can continue with inperson learning. >> that mean you are opposed to a federal mandate of children 12 and over in k through 12, a federal mandate, that would require all them to be vaccinated? >> i believe that the decision about mandating should be at the state and local level and i support the efforts being made to promote vaccines and require them in places where we know spread is high. ncht the data show that in places where the vaccination rates are highest there is less interruptions in learn and the goal is safely reopen schools but also to keep them open. >> both of you have put great emphasis on the datas that behind the decisions you make. secretary becerra, the president made an announcement on august
the 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 have gone eight months past your initial boost? >> senator, i think the president's been very clear throughout. he believes in vaccinating america, and he believes that he should be vaccinated as well. when he mentioned september 20th, what he was telegraphing to the country is get ready. we're going to start vaccinating, getting that boost as soon as we can. of course the science will drive the ultimate result. as we have seen. and so -- >> well you've got five agencies under your leadership. cdc, fda, surgeon general, nih,
nyadd. and they all wrote a letter. they all signed a letter. let me read 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 original second dose. there is no clarifier in this. >> senator i think if you read the les rest of the letter it does put a qualifier saying subject to the science. >> secretary. one of the challenges that we have today is that the communications message is so muddled, that the american people don't know what too believe and what not to believe. in 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 belief that we've tried from the beginning to follow the science.
secretary cardona, i'm concerned that taxpayers and lawmakers will never know what the $191 billion appropriated for k through 12 pandemic relief paid for. according information my staff received from department of education as of september 10th k-12 schools spent $18 billion, less than 10 percent of the 191 billion of federal coronavirus emergency relief money appropriated at the end of march. and gao reported that the department's current method to track funding will not -- will not -- let lawmakers know how these funds are being used to address pandemic-related needs of children and the deputy agreed to do something about it agreed to do something about it. what have you done? >> thank you, senator. the funds provided for our schools are if reel funds for our students to help them recover and i've seen first hand the creative ways districts are reengaging students and reconnecting school communities. a as former commissioner of
education, i can tell you first hand states are going to first use their sr one money. but we also know that this is a -- the path to recovery from the pandemic and impact on children is going to take more than one year. we do have a data dashboard on the draw down and we're 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 also 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 classroom and they are also assessing what the needs are of our students. and again, last week alone, i saw tremendous innovation to make sure we're not only assessing what students lost in terms of instruction but also meeting them where they are with their social/emotional needs and ensuring schools are safe which includes new ventilation systems which i saw in dekalb county georgia and other places i visited. i'm completely confident and i trust educators are going to put the childrens' need first and make sure this recovery provides
long-term solutions to the students not only to get to where they were but to thrive higher than ever before. >> thank you chairman. >> senator casey. >> thank you chair murphy. thanks to our witnesses for your appearance today and public service. i want to ask, and maybe i'll get at least a big question to each of you. sec cardona on students with disabilities and secretary becerra on bhaifl health in doolsehavioral health in dools schools. secretary cardona in your testimony on the first page you say january when the biden/harris administration took office, 23% of all k-12 schools were operating fully remotely. 23. by may it had dropped the 2% from 23 to 2.
so that is good news. i think it is directly related to dollars that the federal government's provided. to date over 189 billion dollars to schools. and i'd note for the record, the rescue plan was 122 of that 189. so two-thirds of the dollars appropriated were done through the rescue plan the democrats passed. secretary cardona first, i wanted to start with students with disabilities. about 7 million as you know in the nation, students in public schools received special education services is. most had to adapt to online instruction. so many challenges that we've read about.
individual education plans which as you know well are required by the i-d-e-a act from years ago, often require specific therapies and specific services. so here is the question. can you tell us what guidance and resources the department is providing to states and local school districts to get students with disabilities the services and the therapies that they need to set them up for success? >> thank you for that question. it is clear that our students with disables were greatly impacted during the pandemic and i recall stories of -- i recall conversations with parents who shared with me the impact that their child not being able to access inperson learning had not only on their learning but on their entire family with regard to work. it was much more difficult for many students with disabilities to learn using a laptop.
i recall a mother who wrote a book and called it "there is a rainbow" and at the end of the rainbow in this book was the school reopening. her child as autism. and the remote learning, as much as educators did the very best, it wasn't the same. so we need to place special emphasis on our students with disabilities and their families. to make sure that they are coming back into a welcoming environment. one that is assessing where the children are now. not where they were in march 2020. we required states to ensure that ieps are being updated for this school year. and many states understood this important responsibility and did it in the spring so they could start the year off now. we know individualized education plans are the best strategy for these students to reach their potential and updating those is critically important. furthermore, senator, we, from
february, we were providing handbooks and special attention was given to supporting students with disabilities and also supporting educators that serve students with disabilities with training and helping them have more opportunities to understand the social and emotional impact of our students with disabilities. so we understand the priority it is. we're going to continue to serve our educators and our students and our families with children with disabilities. >> thanks very much. secretary becerra on behavioral health, obviously a lot to talk about. let me just make a quick reference to the question. what resources are now available for both -- excuse me, for teachers and school administrators to support students' mental wellbeing 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 substitutes disorder in the history of of these program because of the american rescue
plan that you and others in this congress passed. and i am pleased to say that close to a billion dollars has gone out so far to support the negligent health services that are needed throughout our country including in our schools. and we have put out close to $5 billion for substitutes disorder services. most of that money, as you are aware, is administered, run through the states, then they speed it over to the local deposits and the schools. and so we have done more because you all passed the american rescue plan than we've ever done before. and we know we have to do more. >> thanks so much. thank you, chair murray. >> thank you. senator paul. >> mr. becerra, are you familiar with an israeli study that had 2.5 million patients and found that the vaccinated group was actually seven times more likely to get infected with covid than the people who had gotten covid naturally? >> senator, i would have to get back you to on that one, i'm not familiar with that study. >> i think you might want to be if you're going to travel the country insulting the millions of americans, including nba star
jonathan isaac, who have had covid, recovered, look at a study with 2.5 million people, and say, well, you know what, i should make the decision. instead you've called jonathan isaac and others, myself included, flat earthers. are you a doctor or a medical doctor? >> i have worked over 30 years on health policy. >> you're not a medical doctor. do you have a science degree? and yet you travel the country, calling people flat earthers, who have had covid, looked at studies of millions of people, and made their own personal decision that their immunity they naturally acquired is sufficient but you presume 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 . . . . . . . . . ne ignoring the science. the vast preponderance of scientific studies, dozens and dozens, show robust, long-lasting immunity after covid infection. even the cdc does not recommend measles vaccine if you have measles immunity. the same was true for smallpox. but you ignore history and science to shame the flat earthers, as you call 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 do i. you want to lessen vaccine hesitancy? so do i. you want to have that happen? quit lying to people about naturally acquired immunity.
quit lording it over people, acting as if these people are deplorable and unwashed. try persuasion instead of government cudgels. try humility instead of arrogance. try freedom instead of coercion. most of all, try understanding there is no more basic medical right than deciding what we inject into our bodies. today, half a hearing that millions of people in a study prove -- show without a doubt that there is a great deal of immunity from getting it naturally, do you want to apologize to the 100 million americans who suffered through covid, survived, have immunity, and yet you want to hold them down and vaccinate them? do you want to apologizing for calling those people flat earthers? >> senator, i appreciate your question. and i appreciate that everyone has their opinion. we follow the fact and the designs at hhs. we use the expertise of the medical professionals, the scientists at hhs, to make decisions.
it's a team effort. and we rely on what is on the ground, showing as 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've had measles and have immunity, you don't have to be vaccinated. the same is true of smallpox. you're selectively doing this because you want us to submit to your will. you have no scientific background, no scientific degrees, yet you aren't really concerned about 100 million americans who have had the disease, you just want to tell us do as you're told. that's what you're telling us, you're going to tell us if i have 100 employees you're going to put me out of business with a $700,000 fine if i don't obey what you think is the science. don't you understand that it's presumptuous for you to be in charge of all the science? have you ever heard of a second opinion? i can't go to my doctor and ask my doctor's opinion? i mean, this is incredibly arrogant combined with this or
authoritarian nature that you just think we'll just tell all of america do what we say and if not we'll fine them or put them in jail or not go to school or not travel. the science is against you on this. the science is clear. naturally acquired immunity is as good as a vaccine, the israeli study showing it actually better. this isn't an argument against the vaccine but it's an argument for letting people make a decision who already have immunity. you're not willing to consider natural immunity? >> senator, our team has reviewed every study that's out there on covid, whether it's from israel, the u.s., or everywhere else. they have used facts that haven about provided through the rigorous research that's been done to reach conclusions. 660-odd thousand americans or more have died because of covid. area trying to do everything we can to save as many as possible. we're using the facts. we're following the science and following the law. >> nobody is arguing the severity of this but you are completely ignoring the science on natural immunity, so is
fauci, so is the whole group, you're ignoring it because you want submission, you want everybody to submit to your will, do as your told, despite the large pod of scientific evidence that says naturally acquired immunity does work, is an important part of how we're going to require from this. so is the vaccine. when you add them together, we're in a much different place than if you ignore them. 100 million americans by conservative cdc estimates have had the disease. 200 million or more now have been vaccinated. it's a good thing. combined together, it's how the disease is. nobody wants to get the disease. we're not advising anybody to get the disease. if you're unlucky enough to get it, think of the nurses and doctors and orderlies who all bravely took care of covid patients. there was no vaccine for a year and an in half, they risked their lives, they got it, survived, and now people like you are arrogant enough to say you can no longer work in the hospital because you've already had the disease, we're going to force you to take a vaccine that the science does not prove is better than naturally acquired. that's an arrogance that should
be chastened. >> thank you. senator hassan. >> thank you so much, chair murray and ranking member burr, for this hearing. i want to thank both secretary cardona and secretary becerra for being here today to discuss this important issue, keeping our students safe and in school. and i just want to know at the top here that as the mom of a young man with severe disabilities, i am particularly grateful for senator casey's questions about what we're doing to help students who experience disabilities. it's not just that of course they need their -- the individual education plans met, but it is also true, just as you pointed out, secretary cardona, that often school is the only place that some of these students can get certain kinds of services, in some cases that may be physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language. and when schools are also prevented from taking public
health measures, these students often are also the most at risk for severe complications from covid-19. so it's a catch-22 for parents. and i just want to thank senator casey and all of you, for everything you're doing to help protect children with stabilities. 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 other openings, ranging from paraprofessionals and social workers to bus drivers and custodians, roles that are essential to keeping our schools open for in-person learning. some school districts are addressing these workforce gaps in various ways including with hiring bonuses and paying parent drivers to help get kids to school. secretary cardona, how can school districts use their elementary and secondary school relief funding to meet these staffing needs in order to keep schools open and provide essential support to students? >> thank you for your question and for the comments about
students with disabilities, their families, and the importance they are in our schools. we should be prioritizing that as we think about reopening. as we should about ensuring that we address the workforce gaps. safely reopening schools means we have enough staff to keep everyone safe and supported. so we do believe the american rescue plan and the esser funds can be used to make sure we're paying a salary that's competitive. people have options now. i can tell you firsthand that my own children's experience is being influenced by whether or not they're able to get bus drivers to take them to extracurricular activities. so it is a real situation. and if we're serious about reopening schools and making sure our children have the best opportunity to engage not only in the classroom but extracurricular activities or getting to school on time, we is to make sure we're addressing these workforce gaps boldly. there are more funds now 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 really excited about the opportunity in the build back better agenda to make sure that we're investing in our profession, paying livable wages, and making sure we have resources for parents and educators to go in and get their credentials, serve as bilingual teachers. it's all hands on deck. we're 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 would typically be in math and four months behind in reading. if not addressed, these gaps in learning will have a long-lasting negative effect on the lifelong success of students. so secretary cardona, how can schools most effectively identify the gaps in student learning and how is the
department of education ensuring that schools have what they need to do this? >> thank you. yes, our students missed out on a lot in the last year and a half. you know academic gaps based on the fact that remote learning doesn't compare to in-person learning are significant. and the reality is, some students faced more of it than others, exacerbated opportunity gaps that existed. we recognize this and we also, part of our return to school roadmap, prioritize not only safe school reopening and engaging in social/emotional wellbeing but also addressing the lack of instruction that students were not able to access due to the pandemic. we released strategies for using the american rescue plan funding to address the impact of lost instructional time as its own guidance document, in addition to the three handbooks that we have that address learning loss. you know, learning loss could be controversial. i don't want to victimize our students. it was a lack of access to
instruction. so we have we have happened books out there. we are talking to states to see what they are doing. i was fortunate to see summer school programs that tripled in side, after school programs because of the american rescue plan fund. they're working on that. i know it's a priority across the country. >> thank you. i realize i'm a little over. i just do want to point out the department was very helpful to school districts in new hampshire as they tried to use the secondary school emergency relief funds to improve 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 schools are safe. thank u. >> thank you. senator cassidy. >> thank you all. thank you for being here. i associate myself with senator paul's remarks as regards the need for our cdc to look at the influence of natural immunity and its effectiveness relative to a vaccine. i agree totally that when we
tell americans that natural immunity does not confer immunity, that goes against science. i will say that. some of his other remarks perhaps not so much. on that, absolutely. secretary, if you can take that back to cdc, i would appreciate that. i think we can agree on this. would you accept the primary purpose of a school is to educate a child? >> yes. >> should be? >> yeah. >> we know there's social services that we don't want to ignore. my concern is during the pandemic, against science, public schools were more likely to close. i'm looking at data from -- by the way, if we're going to look at what empirically works, if we're going to follow the evidence and the primary goal is to educate a child, i think we have to look more broadly than, say, just the use of masks. i'm looking from something from
the institute of education services. it is showing me that nationally, public schools, only 47% were open in january of last year. catholic schools, 89%. private schools, 92%. there was significant dis-enrollment from public schools as parents sought to get their students educated, against the science, against the clear recommendation of among other things the american academy of pediatrics. there's been a hostility among democrats, frankly, and among the administration as regards charter schools. seeing how charter schools actually provide -- private vouchers give an alternative who is otherwise locked into a system who will not educate her child, why is there this hostility towards this alternative for the parents?
>> thank you, senator. i do agree with you that school reopening was critically important for all students across the country. i'm very pleased to say that across the country, our schools are open. all students across the country. i'm pleased to say across the country, schools are open. >> yes, but we're talked about an extended period of time where children lost a significant amount of their education. and i'm being -- and by the way, this is about social justice, because it was the minority child in the inner city school that did worse by far, with some saying that seven months of learning was lost among african-american children, on urban children, and -- seven months for the low income and six months for the african-american child. so why are we holding our parents and our children prisoners to assist them and ignore their educational needs when the science says the schools could safely reopen? >> thank you for that question. i remember last spring and even before that, working on
reopening schools. and what i can tell you is those schools where predominantly black and brown students attend were woefully underfunded and they didn't have the funding to address -- >> are you going to tell me that inner city parochial schools that some philanthropists had opened up for these children that was an older facility did not have similar problems and did not attempt to adapt? i find that -- i just don't believe that. >> what i'm sharing with you, sir, my visits, my experience as a commissioner talking to superintendents, visiting schools with ventilation systems that weren't touched for 20 years, with class sizes of over 25, 26, we make sure that the schools are safe for students and for staff. and many of these same families were sharing their concern about schools not being reopened. i'm very thankful for the
funding the federal government provided -- >> i'm almost out of time, i apologize. that may be the case. by the way, my wife is chair of a charter school, full disclosure. they managed. they just opened their gymnasium, converted their lunchroom, made it work for their children who are disproportionately minorities. but why shouldn't the parent to have the choice to take her child elsewhere if she decides maybe they have a lousy ventilation system but they have a good ventilation system so i'll take my child to the private school with the good ventilation system so my child doesn't lose seven months of education this year, why should she not have that choice? >> senator, it's my belief all children should have access to a safe school, where all children can succeed. it was important that all schools be given the tools and the resources -- >> i'll finish with this. if they are to have access and define science, unions demand a school close, why would that access not include the ability
to take dollars that would go to the public school that are not open, they're not there for the kid, to take the child to a school which is open? can you tell me, should that parent -- just yes or no, should that parent have the right to take the child? >> it requires more than a yes or no, it's more nuanced than that. i will say we have been working closely with educators including our unions to safely reopen schools and today all american students have an opportunity to learn in person, safely, because of the work that we've done together. >> papering over a terrible loss of educational opportunity for those most vulnerable in our society and frankly our perception is it is due to obesance to unions and not putting our children first. >> i'm going to vote. the next three senators in order are smith, romney, and baldwin. >> thank you, madam chair. and thank you very much, secretary cardona and secretary
becerra, for joining us today. it's very good to be with you. i'm going to direct my questions to secretary becerra. mr. secretary, i applaud the biden administration's commitment to keeping our children safe in school through vaccinations, through masking, through ventilation, and through testing. and this includes the administration's recent announcement that they will ramp up the production of rapid covid-19 tests and purchase $2 billion worth of rapid tests which can detect, as we know, up to 98% of cases that are infectious with covid. so rapid in-home tests are a huge benefit to parents, because they can get quick test results, so they know whether they can send their students to school after they've been exposed to covid in the classroom. and it's also a huge help to schools that are, frankly, i've heard, overwhelmed in some cases
by asking educators to administer tests and to do contact tracing on top of everything else they're doing. rapid tests are a better alternative than lab-based tests which can be so frustrating to minnesota parents and students, as students are pulled out of school and activities are put on hold for the days while they're waiting, the three days while they're waiting for results. i know, i believe both senator murray and senator kaine has raised this issue. as we know, unfortunately, rapid tests are difficult to get ahold of right now. so here's my question, secretary becerra. some policy 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. so 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 in responding to some of the previous questions, we have the tests. it's that getting them to the right source at the right time 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 where the tests would be made, the requests could be made for those types of tests. what we're trying to do now is coordinate far better how all of this is done. and what i will tell you is that between the money that was made available through the supplemental appropriation that you all passed, the money from the arp, we've been able to provide substantial funds. $10 billion in one case, $2 billion, as you just mentioned, more recently. another $2 billion was made available to try to make sure that we're reaching everyone. can we coordinate better?
we're going to try to do that with our local and state partners. we at the federal government don't have the capacity to be the administrators of the test. but we can work in partnership with those on the ground who can do it to make sure that we go where the tests are needed. >> and do you think that there is an opportunity to think about reclassifying these tests? i mean, how do you -- >> that's certainly something we can take a look at. i can get back to you as quickley as possible, talk to the team to see if that's something we can consider. >> thank you, i appreciate that. i think there is an opportunity there given the high level of accuracy and just another tool that the administration could have as you're working to ramp up these tests. >> we've been using every tool you all give us and we'll look at this as well. >> thank you very much. i also want to ask you a little bit about the work that 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, this is directed towards you, pardon me. this is about supporting students with disabilities as we navigate through what has been such a difficult time in schools. and i am -- in particular i just want to quickly highlight a couple of aspects of support for students with disabilities that we are seeing in my home state of minnesota. there's many great examples, but recently we've seen educators from moorhead public schools in northwest minnesota, they've shared with me how they've been able to make really important investments for their students using american rescue plan dollars, thanks to american rescue plan dollars. secretary cardona, could you just quickly in the few seconds i have discuss the department's approach to supporting education of students with disabilities and mitigating the learning loss that they've experienced? >> thank you for the question and for the support of the great programs there. thanks to the arp. you know, we're back. kids are back. kids are back in school. that's the best thing we can do for our students with
disabilities and all students. they're back in their classrooms, in their teachers, with their peers. the best thing we can do for students with disabilities is the same we can do for all students, get them back in the classroom with teachers who love them and want to support them. however, with students with disabilities that might have had interrupted learning, it's really important that we're monitoring where they are today, not where they were in march 2020, and make sure that we're using american rescue plan funds to provide enough resources, enough support personnel, to give the students what they need today and to make sure their families feel supported as students transition back. thank you. >> thank you very much, secretary cardona. next up, senator romney. >> thank you, madam chairman. secretary cardona, i'm going to clear up a social media rumor that you spend most of your time outside washington, d.c. is the great majority 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 concurred with senator paul, his concern about natural acquired immunity with regards to covid-19. and i was disappointed in your response. i had expected you to say one of two things, one, that the science is clear that inoculation adds to one's protection against covid-19, and that he was wrong about the studies he described. and he said every single study said that natural acquired immunity is better than vaccination or at least as good as. or i would expect you to say, look, maybe it's the same but we can't determine whether people have had covid necessarily or not and therefore out of an abundance of caution we're insisting they be vaccinated. could you please get back to the committee with an answer to his question so we can know where the science stands and where the administration stands. secretarycardona, as young
families are thinking about having children, they consider the plans for what it will mean to have a child. and they consider about pre-k, about childcare, about college expenses down the road. and i note that in the president's plan, the so-called reconciliation bill of $3.5 trillion, that the plan is that children -- child care, rather, and early learning expire after six years instead of ten years for the full program, that pre-k expires after seven years, and that 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 romney, for the question. we're at a point in our country's history where we have the opportunity for transformational change for our
students -- >> i totally agree. i don't want to go on a different topic here, which is, the transformation, is this a permanent change, or -- it's transformation, if it's permanent. but if it's just temporary, five, six, seven years, and all these programs go away, that's not transformational. that's bait and switch. >> senator, i do believe at this point the families, especially post-pandemic, providing community college access, that only helps the economy. >> but should it expire at the end as it is planned now? >> i'm hopeful, senator, that today goes really well for our families across the country and that in the coming years, we'll find ways to continue to support those strategies that we know lift american families. >> you mean it's your anticipation these programs, then, that parents should count on them continuing? >> that is the goal, to have community college for all families. >> if that's the goal for all these programs, not the five years, six years, seven years that's in the legislation, how are you going to pay for it?
because there's only one of two ways. either more debt or higher taxes. which do you prefer? >> senator, i know in this proposed budget no one making under $400,000 will see an increase in taxes. >> that's right away. but if you're saying that down the road, when these programs are set to expire, you would expect them to continue instead. that means any promises about not raising taxes on people making under $400,000 today, those are going to expire as well. >> is a lifetime educaors educator i can tell you what's being proposed is transformational. >> i'm concerned that we're going to double the child tax care credit which allows people to help people pay for childcare. at the same time we're going to give them free pre-k. why double? why give people free pre-k and double their child tax credit which they could use for themselves to care for their own
children at home, to go to head starred, to go to a private health care 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, build new school classrooms to do so? >> sir, for me as an educator, early childhood education is a foundation for a strong educational program. >> totally agree but why do we have to pay for it twice? >> i've seen the benefit of it and i know for many of these families, the ability to get back to work and add to their income is -- >> look, i'm perfectly happy with providing funding to families so they can provide childcare for their child. i think they ought to have the choice of one providing it themselves if they want to either with a family member or a spouse or number two, sending a child to a childcare facility of their choice. but to say you're going to do that and we're also going to give you public school childcare, that's two programs, doubling the cost, and it's taking away the incentive for people that might choose to decide to have the childcare at
home. i think my time is up, i'm sorry, madam chair, back to you. >> thank you, senator romney. senator marshall. >> okay, thank you, madam chair, and again, thanks to the secretaries for being here to talk about the intersection of health care and education, something that's 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, homicide is number three, cancer might be going up or down depending on which age group we're talking about. but focusing 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 our mandates do to the emotional health of our children. i turn to the conversation of natural immunity just for a
second. look, i've seen the data. all the moms out there have seen the data on natural immunity. and i'm 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. and don't get me wrong, i've had the vaccine, my parents had the vaccine, i hope my parents get their boosters soon. i'm in favor of vaccines. but when we're talking about our children and those ones that already have immunity, i think many americans have concern about this and the emotional impact if those kids get 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 if -- 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 immunity and a child has antibodies, would you consider excluding the child from the mandate? secretary cardona, yes or no? >> thank you, senator. this issue requires more than a yes or a no. i know states and local districts are the ones making decisions around masks and vaccines. and i'll rely on them. what i've done, because i'm not a medical doctor -- >> that's what my question is. so if the cdc acknowledged 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're already immune to, and the suicide rate. secretary becerra, can you answer the question yes or no? >> [ inaudible ].
i was about to say, you'll be disappointed that it's not a yes-or-no answer because science doesn't act as quickly as we would like on these issues. with regard to children, there was a study that showed for those -- actually individuals, not just children, people who were unvaunvaxed, who had covid were twice as likely to be reinfected than if they were vaccinated. >> we can argue about the studies all day. i'm a physician. you're a lawyer. you probably don't want to go down that road because i'm telling you the huge majority of the studies show that natural immunity is better than the vaccinations. a huge majority. let's don't talk about getting the virus, let's talk about hospitalization, morbidity and mortality. neither of your jobs is to decide what -- if the statement
is true that i'm saying, that natural immunity is better, that's up to the cdc. so my question was, if the cdc would acknowledge it and a child has antibodies, would you excuse them from the mandate? but we need to go on. i'm 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, and many of which are children. i'm very concerned about not just the covid and the variants they're bringing but tuberculosis. haiti has the highest amount of tuberculosis in the western hemisphere, measles, mumps as well. what will you do to test them and make sure they get their immunizations? >> senator, great question. we do, as you know, have jurisdiction over those migrant
children who are unaccompaniedu we have jurisdiction over them once turned over by customs and border protection. whether it's a licensed facility or custodian, they can't be there without making sure they don't have covid and that they're vaccinated. >> i'm sure you're measuring that somehow, some way. secretary cardona, anything to add about students entering our school system about children entering who are not tested or vaccinated? >> we make sure they have any health care needs they have to stay healthy. >> we have to be overwhelmed, our systems, our schools, 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've done mission work in haiti, i've been to the border, i understand the humanity of all this. but i also don't want my grandchildren exposed to tuberculosis let alone new variants of covid. i yield back, madam chair. >> thank you. senator baldwin. >> thank you, madam chair. i'm ambitious in hoping we can get to three topics in my five minutes. 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 and recognize the mental health toll that the pandemic has had on our nation's 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. certainly working with the chair of this committee in our other joint committee appointment on the subcommittee on labor, hhs, and appropriations, to emphasize and elevate funding to expand school-based 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. >> thank you very much for the question. and i'll be brief because i know you have three topics, and then my colleague here wants to speak. thank you for bringing up the importance of social and emotional wellbeing of students and the fact that we have to build back better.
we can't go back to how it was before. our students have been traumatized. i would argue that before the pandemic, we should have been doing more. the collaboration is great. i recently had a road trip and dr. vivek murthy, the u.s. surgeon general, joined, and we were talking about the importance of mental health access. i visited a high school where they're restructuring their day to provide mental health access and social/emotional wellbeing for 6,000 high school students. in the arp, funding is there for that. the $1 billion in the build back better agenda to double the number of social workers and school councilors. then the importance of community schools also to make sure outside agencies are coming in. i can continue. it is a priority, our return to school roadmap has that as a priority. we'll continue to do that. >> secretary becerra. >> this microphone -- oh, there we go. senator, i'll simply add that the department of education and hhs and cdc have been working
closely together to make sure we're using the data properly together. we're constantly working together to ensure we're working with schools to make sure science is determining our policies. in our own agency, because we're so large and we have so many agencies that touch mental health, i established a coordinating council within hhs to make sure we're all working together, samsa, administration for children and families, so we're not missing anything and are working with our sister departments. >> the second topic i wanted to mention is 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've heard about some of them this morning. and we need to make sure we're advancing innovative approaches to keeping our kids and teachers healthy. at the university of wisconsin, we're working on a proposal to expand surveillance of respiratory viruses including covid-19 and influenza by collecting air samples from schools. unfortunately they've 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 very 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?
>> so i'll start off by saying, yes, definitely we recognize the importance of testing and accessibility to testing, surveillance testing for our students. that's how we keep our schools safe. that's how we're going to keep our children in the classroom, which is a priority for all of us. we've seen examples in new mexico, new orleans, louisiana, louisville, kentucky. what we're doing is lifting up best practices. one of the sites that i visited with dr. murthy last week was 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 worked. and we want to make sure we're promoting best practices to educators across the country. >> senator, i'll simply add that along with working together department-wide, we've also provided about $10 billion through cdc directly to the school districts, the state and school districts, so they can start doing the testing they need. we continue to provide technical assistance, collaborating with them, trying to give them the
guidance they need to know how best to use those resources and we're ready to do more. >> thank you. i'll state the last question for the record, and you can follow up, but i wanted to know how your agencies are collaborating with experts in industry in the ventilation space to ensure that the improvements supported by the american rescue plan funding are designed and installed and maintained in a way that, you know, promotes health and minimizes illness among students, teachers, and staff. >> i'll have my staff follow up with you. >> thank you. >> thank you. senator tuberville. >> good morning, gentlemen. good news to see you all. secretary becerra, the people in alabama, the people across the country, everybody is ready to get back to normal life, i know
you are too. specifically teachers, i'm hearing from a lot of teachers. we've been in full class most of the last year and a half in alabama. but teachers are concerned. they're concerned that they know they're going to get exposed. there's no way around it. but they want to know that they've got an effective means once they get sick. example, i had a teacher write me a letter, she got sick, and she goes to the hospital, real sick, but they turned her back because there's 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 the 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. and 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 your state of alabama, in july, your state ordered -- all those providers ordered a total of 6,800 doses. in august, your state ordered over 45,000 doses. in less than two months it went up that quickly. and your state wasn't the only one. the difficulty is that with that immediate surge, trying to meet that demand became complicated. so what we've done is we have surged with that to make sure that we're manufacturing more, we're working with industry to make sure they continue to manufacture more. but what we thought was important was to make sure that every state, alabama as every other state, had access to those monoclonal antibodies. what we did was rather than let those therapies be secured on
site by anybody on site, we decided to let the states decide how to best coordinate that. so that state would make sure, alabama would make sure that every alabaman would have access to those monoclonal antibodies, not just one place or one part of alabama. so the formula for that distribution is public. your staff and you have that. so we would ask you to take a look, because what we're trying to do is have transparency guide how those therapies and treatments are available to all. >> it's my understanding the second quarter of this past year that we had a huge contract with two companies with monoclonal antibodies and when they're 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. now, they came back and gave us a lot of them because we went back to them, the companies, and they've said, luckily we've withheld some of them but then they have to crank it back up. who would make that decision?
>> remember, the request for the use of monoclonal antibodies was coming from the places at home, in your state, and we were making sure we were providing the distribution to make it possible to do that. and so we were meeting the needs, until these last few months when the delta variant really surged and all of a sudden a lot of people were getting sick. by the way, seven states are right now essentially taking in about 70% of all those monoclonal antibodies, of the 50 states, seven states. and so you can see the surge has occurred quickly. and what we're trying to do is make sure manufacturers are producing the supply that's needed. we are trying to make sure distribution is done fairly, equitably and that it's done transparently and that there's accountability as well because we don't want to find an alabaman goes without a monoclonal antibody because somebody else got it who
shouldn't have gotten it. >> we need to focus more on therapeutics and testing, i've talked to a lot of doctors, especially in the 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 'til they get symptoms, they've had it for days, they've been in school and it's been exposed. i just hope -- you know, i heard you say about equity and i continue to hear everybody talk about equity and i believe in that. but we need to save people's lives. we can't shut down alabama or some of these other states simply for the fact that we might not be taking as many vaccines. we cannot let people die. and especially teachers. you know, we're 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 shouldn't be about that, it should be about everybody, if they need it, they get it. and we just need to be more prepared. so -- >> i absolutely agree.
>> secretary cardona, i have some questions for you. i want to put it on record, madam chair, but thank you, very good answers, thank you, look forward to hearing from you. thank you. >> thank you very much. senator lujan. >> thank you, chair murray and 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 in wisconsin that found mask wearing reduced the spread of covid-19 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 use masking policy if you're indoors makes sense, especially for our kids, because we have kids under the age of 12 who are not vaccinated. and so there is no doubt that the studies, the evidence, the
science has shown that masking works. >> and secretary becerra and secretary cardona, i'm going to ask a series of yes-or-no questions, i would ask for 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 masks and testing? secretary becerra? >> follow the science and the data that's helping us keep people safe, yes. >> sounds like a yes. secretary cardona. >> the last year and a half have proven, yes, mitigation strategies work. >> yes or no, does banning localities from implementing public health measures undermine the effort to reopen and keep schools open? secretary becerra. >> senator, we have to use common sense and we have to do everything to keep our kids safe. we would want to make sure we're using the different treatments and therapies and strategies that keep our kids safe. and masking, vaccines, distancing, ventilation, hygiene, all of that works. and we should be able to do all those.
why should any parent not be able to do those? >> secretary cardona? >> the reopening data is pretty clear, in places where they're more relaxed about mitigation strategies, they're 3 1/2 times more likely to have spread, which causes school closures. >> does banning public health measures disproportionately impact students with disabilities and underlying health conditions, yes or no, senator becerra? >> senator, folks with disabilities, kids with disabilities are more vulnerable, therefore more susceptible to covid. we have to do everything we can to keep them safe and the motion effective ways to do that is all the different strategies i just mentioned. >> students are disabilities are disproportionately impacted with poor policies are implemented. >> yes or no, as disinformation on masking and vaccine on tech platforms negatively impacted the response to getting kids back into the classroom? secretary becerra? >> again, the science should guide us. the facts should guide us. the data that shows where to go should guide us and not social
media, not politics. and so i hope that families who are concerned for their kids' safety at school will follow the science and the facts. >> secretary cardona? >> yes, we're focused on sharing -- following the science and communicating that on different platforms to make sure our families are getting accurate information. >> recently it was announced that youtube is going to stop allowing disinformation videos on vaccine and covid. i applaud them and i hope the other social media platforms follow them. turning to the effective use of relief funds, new mexico school districts reported that the elementary and secondary school emergency relief program, esser and cdc control of infections diseases, 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'm proud that my state took bold steps of investing $38 million in the american rescue plan esser 3 funds to stand up a
program to strengthen the teacher pipeline into new mexico schools and invested $10 million in the number of school based mental health counselors. esser funds are building a more equitable education system by helping schools close the homework gap. secretary cardona, what other uses of esser funds have made education more equitable long term? >> last week i visited five states on a back to school road trip where i was able to see firsthand how our students are happy to be back, our teachers are happy to be back. we're back in business because of the american rescue plan and the funding from the federal government and i've seen ventilation systems improve. i've seen students having access to school social workers, parents having access to support in the schools. i've seen better professional development. i've seen students in summer programs that are intended to get students to reengage after a year and a half of being in front of a screen, through the use of the american rescue plan
funds. and i've seen colleges also engaging students in different ways, creating new pipeline programs, all because of the american rescue plan. i'm fortunate that i get a bird's eye view and i get to visit schools across the country and see the amazing things that are happening as a result of the american rescue plan and our students are fortunate that they have educators that are committed to meeting their needs when the students come back. many great things happening in our schools today. >> appreciate that. chairman, i do have some additional questions, in the area of in-person learning and mental and behavioral health of students. i'll submit those for the record. i thank the witnesses for being here today. >> thank you. senator collins. >> thank you, madam chairwoman. secretary cardona, i think all of us can agree that students suffer when they're not in school. and in order to avoid another year of learning loss, emotional turmoil, and behavioral problems, some school districts
are implementing a test to stay approach. and what they do is they allow asymptomatic students who test negative for the virus to stay in school rather than quarantining them after another student or a staff member has tested positive for the virus. a recent study in "the lancet" suggests that the test to stay approach can be safe. there was a randomized trial that included more than 150 schools in britain, that found that 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 endorse a test to stay program, even though the consequences are that thousands of students in this country are once again not in school because of quarantining. so my question to you is, do you agree with the cdc or do you agree with the "lancet" study in those school districts that are using a stay in school and testing method? >> thank you, senator, for the
question. and for, you know, communicating the importance of in-person learning. that's the best way we can get the students the support that they need after this year and a half. and i recognize that there is emerging data or studies around this test to stay. to be very frank, since the beginning of the pandemic, we've worked closely and listened to the science of cdc and it's helped us safely reopen schools. so we're going to continue to work with the cdc, and as their guidance changes, we'll implement it in the schools. we'll rely on the health experts who have guided us to the point where we're reopening schools across the country for all students. >> well, the problem 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 upon them. and i think the latest example of this confusing, conflicting advice has to do with the booster shots. and that will lead me to my next and final question for secretary becerra. add fda, the longtime director of the office of vaccines research and review and her deputy are leaving this fall, in part because of the decisionmaking over boosters. this weekend, the cdc director commented and conceded the confusion in messaging around who should receive the booster. and this was after she overruled the recommendation of her own advisory committee. two public health experts from brown and harvard wrote in "the
new york times" that the new 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 linear course. and as we've seen now with delta especially, it is wily. it can dodge. it can get around. can dodge. it can get around, and it can be strong and fast. we have to try to keep pace. we have to wait for the science to give us the direction on where to go, where to turn. i go back to what was said
earlier, we have to use our common sense. i believe that director walensky used the science and common sense how best to make sure we keep americans safe with regard to boosts in her latest action, and i think the fda has done a tremendous job with the science that is also evolving with the variant to make sure we keep americans safe. the evidence is in. if you've been vaccinated, chances are you're not going to die, you're probably not going to be hospitalized. if you're vaccinated, 90% of people dying today are unvaccinated. i think between fda, cdc, all our different agencies, nih and others, we've done the best we can to use the science to guide us and stay within the framework of the law. >> thank you. senator hickenlooper.
>> is this working? >> try it one more time. >> there's usually a little light. all right, i apologize for the delay. thank you both for your service. thanks for answering all of our questions in what are clearly difficult times. secretary cardona, i'm going to start with you. obviously we've seen drops in enrollment. in colorado we saw a drop in enrollment of 9%, that's 7,000 students. i wanted to see if it's possible, what are the ways we can try to recapture some of those students and if it's possible to give students the flexibility to explore alternative methods such as the example if climate allows providing the tools for students where it's appropriate to actually learn outside. >> thank you for the question.
disenrollment has been an issue, and there was one study where our education partners estimated 3 million students across the country. that's significant. we know that our students that maybe were underserved by our education institution are more likely to be students that are disenrolled. our priority is to get students back into the classroom, to knock on doors, to make sure we're doing everything in our power using aip funds to create programs that didn't exist before, to re-engage families and students, get them the support they need. part of this is data. we're requiring absenteeism data to be reported from states, especially if they receive accountability waivers. we're expecting more on chronic absenteeism of students who
maybe disenrolled because of the pandemic. we're working on strategies to get those students re-enrolled, and last week i saw examples firsthand of what is happening across our country. states where there are teacher e corps now going out, knocking oa doors, getting students back ou into the classroom. there is a leap 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 k in. students are more likely to engage when they see someone they know.n then with the outdoor instruction, we know that one oo the innovative practices that came out last year is learning outdoors. this is a practice i hope continues when we reopen our schools. students enjoy it more, and we know they learn better when n they're it outdoors and with their peers. that's a strategy i hope to see continued with our schools.
>> great. thank you very much. you have been everywhere all over this country, so i give you tremendous credit putting in time where it was so needed. same thing for you, secretary becerra, you've been all over this country. as chairman murray and others re know, i've been trying to get nd full funding for pandemic preparedness. the biden administration called for $30 billion to invest in research, manufacturing, the ch infrastructure, right, to create a library so we're prepared for 25 families of virus the next pandemic comes from. we've seen estimates that when you average it out over 100 years, the cost of society is within the $100 billion per year. over a $45 million we could make sure we get a vaccine within 100 days.. not 320 day likes this past time, which was a miracle. but within a hundred days.
anyway, i wanted to see if, how an investment like this allows your agency to succeed. >> senator, first i think the comments i'm hearing are not those of just a senator, but an executive, someone who ran a state and has to be thinking ahead of the curve, right? that's what we're trying to do, we're trying to get ahead of thd next pandemic because we know ry something will follow covid. we'reth trying to make those investments now. we're working, making sure all of our agencies, whether it's cdc, fda, nih, they're thinking beyond what we know.er that's why this rpah funding will help us do things we need to do. we're going to make sure the supply chain, we'll work on that so we never have a situation again where we don't have enough masks. all those things we learned a great deal. covid, as bad as it's been, taught us a whole lot, but we do need that mentality of thinking
what's next, versus just waiting for what happens. >> thank you. i appreciate it. it's one thing to learn the lesson, butt making sure we put the lessons we learned into practices, as you point out. equally important. thank both of you for your service. i yield back to the chair. >> thank you. senator murkowski. >> thank you, madam chair, and thank you, secretaries, for being here. appreciate it. an important discussion here this morning. many of my colleagues have th touched on the issues i wanted o to raise, so rather than try to repeat, let me go into a couplen different areas.s. obviously this past year and a half we have really learned thet benefits of distance learning, n how we're able to connect virtually. while it's 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 state that are either unserved or underserved and it has made distance learning a challenge. in certain areas that underserved comes about because the cost of internet, the cost of delivering broadband to these communities is h prohibitively expensive. you can have a family that's paying $800 a month to receive r their services, their internet,s and it's slow and it's cumbersome and doesn't work for anyone. we have, i think, done a lot to, address this inequity we know exists within access to broadband, the bipartisan infrastructure bill is -- is another great example of the work that we continue to do
there. but we know it's going to take time to build up this broadband capacity to connect communities and homes. the fcc has been working on a rule to allow schools to use their e-rate-funded broadband to basically beam the instruction o into students' homes. the fcc has not yet finalized this rule. secretary cardona, are you working with the fcc to encourage them to get that work finalized? do you know where we are on that, because as they say, daylight's awasting.as >> thank you for making sure our rural communities get the internet they need. it did impact rural communitiesl greatly and broadband access is really difficult to come by. we spoke about this and i recognized challenge for
students in your state to access learning online.ou our agency is working with the fcc try to move the process along. i can have someone reach out to you with updates so you have more up-to-date information.eo >> i would appreciate that, because i'm getting those requests. and i don't have anything to definiteive to provide them at this point in time. another concern that i'm hearing is, all right, we've got lots oe money for tests, whether it is for the rapid tests, whether it is for the tests that you are able to get and take home. but having access to federal funding doesn't necessarily mean that you can find those tests. i'm hearing not only from schools, but i'm hearing from businesses that are worried t about this mandate that's coming out of the administration that says either get vaccinated or do testing, but there's no place to get the testing.
certainly not to get the rapid test. you've indicated in response to senator smith's question, secretary becerra, that we've e got the tests out there but it'n 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 get the results back in a timely enough manner to make a difference. right now you go into the anchorage international airport where i get tested every time i land and there are no rapid tests that are available. they say it's due to a national shortage, is the sign that they have posted.ess so where are we? c
how can we assure people that ih you want the tests whether for work or for school, we can't just say we put lots of money out there, we need to know that it's actually getting out to folks.e >> senator, i think you'll agree that we've seen the surge in the last couple months, delta has really been the driver of all of this. >> alaska is number one.n t and we don't want to be number one. we're in a very, very challenged place right now. t >> by the way before i forget, i want to makee sure that i mention, we're getting ready to moven forward on telehealth whih is an issue as well. broadband is one thing, but the fda has moved forward to try to use as many testing opportunities as possible. i think it's up to 400 different he types of tests that could be made available. we're trying to work closer with the industry, the manufacturing basery to make sure they know wb supply will be feed. we're trying to coordinate far k better with the states and local governments. we're trying to let the states help us determine whether the tests shouldre go rather than jt
the people in any part of the state or anyan part of the regi of the country to dictate where tests should go so we make sure there is always sufficiento supply for every state. it is one of those things we have to work in close partnership with state and local teams to make sure we're coordinating well. in some places there is enough supply. not.others it is so we have to make sure coordinate very well. >> i think we recognize we're going to be dealing with this, living with this a lot longer in our schools than any of us would like, so the availability of tests and the affordability of tests and the quick turnaround of tests is going to have to o made a priority. thank you madam chair. remain a . >> senator kaine. >> vaccination, there is sadly political turmoil about it. masking, there is political turmoil about it, and i wish there wasn't.
but everybody here in this committee thinks there ought to be a lot of tests and they ought to be chep. and secretary becerra i wanted to follow up with you on this. when you said there is adequate supply but distributional problems, that may be true but it's not true there is adequate supply of affordable tests. so the cheapest rapid covid tests you can guy over the counter right now in the united states is basically $12 a a test. and the second cheapest is 15 dollars per test. in germany, you can get a rapid covid test for less than $1. in india, a rapid covid test is $3.50 at the grocery store. the uk provides free tests to everybody in the united kingdom. the studies have shown that adults, if the tests are a dollar or two, they'll get tests to make sure they can go to work, or they'll test their kid to make sure it is safe for them
to be at school. but if it's $15, the willingness to regularly test yourself dramatically goes down. i think there is bipartisanship on the issue that we ought to have tests that people can afford. why are tests in the united states so much more expensive than in countries like germany, the uk or india, and what are we doing to make sure the costs are costs that people can afford? >> senator, great question and i'm not sure i can give to you full answer but here let me give you a shot at giving you something. remember that germany, some of those european countries have a federal system that lets them move much faster than we do. we have a system, a republic that allows the fifty states to dictate so much of this. and as i just mentioned. some states prepared better. some states didn't. what we're trying to do is coordinate far better with them. among the billions of dollars you all made available to us in supplemental appropriations and
the rescue plan, there is about 42, 43 billion you made available for testing. 10 billion, by the way, of that was specifically for schools. i mentioned earlier that president biden has called for another $2 billion to help make sure that the industries are manufacturing sufficient supply of the tests. so we're trying to do everything we can to make sure the supply is there. we're trying to work, as i mentioned earlier to senator murkowski, we're trying to work better with our partners so we coordinate better and make sure we're hitting the spots that need it most and never run out of supply. >> i'll probably ask this for the record, but i'd like to hear what your metric is not just for the supply but what the cost should be to somebody who goes to a pharmacy to buy an over the counter test. because if the research shows people will get tested if it's a buck or two or three, but they won't if it's 15, we can have all the supply we want. if the cost isn't affordable, people won't take advantage of it and then one of the legs of
testing, vaccination masking, the one that we agree on, we won't be able to accomplish. and we ought to be able to accomplish the one we agree on. i hope to get the metric from you all with the defense production act to expand supply. i hope you have a metric about affordability in there. and i'll follow up on that. i just want to say really quickly, secretary cardona, good to see you. i'm really worried about teacher shortages and school shortages generally. bus drivers and guidance counselors. in my hometown, 435 vacancies at the start of the school year just a couple weeks back. it's been a very difficult time for teachers, so what are you all doing to kind of put your arms around that problem and focus upon teacher recruitment and retention and teacher preparation? because i think this is a challenge all across the country. >> it is. thank you, senator. reopening schools was the goal. children are back to in-person
learning, but there's so many needs we need to focus on now. and the teacher shortage was exacerbated during the pandemic. what we need to do is make sure we're being creative and innovative with programming to allow for recruitment programs and pipeline programs. we have para educators, climate educators in our building. we have to work with higher ed to make sure there are quicker and clearer pathways to get into the profession. i saw a great program at university of wisconsin, madison where they're doing that. they have folks interning and getting a job in the school for their masters. so there are funds available in the agenda to help accelerate this, especially in special education, bilingual education and some other shortage areas. but we have to make sure we're elevating the profession by providing supports they need, ensuring teachers are safe, let's start there, and making sure we're promoting the profession as a viable option
and make sure that teachesers where getting a livable wage as well. >> senator collins and i have a bill called the prep act that is very focused on increasing new pathways into the profession and attracting more people. i think it would accomplish a lot for the schools. looking forward to working with you. >> thank you. senator braun. >> thank you, madam chair. i have two questions for secretary cardona and one for secretary becerra. i know schools across the country are trying to reopen, and with travels, everybody is trying to do it safely. it's different with every school corporation. i know that some of those meetings are a little rowdy. in this case i think discussion was on mask mandates, curriculum related to maybe critical race theory, and i think that's civic engagement. i was on a school board for ten years, and i always tell people you will get an earful of something. it will be a good indication whether you are ready for something else. i was a little disturbed on a
comment, and it was in relation to why are they doing this. i'm going to quote this, and your response for that engagement was, i think it's a proxy for being mad that their guy didn't win, and i'm quoting it verbatim here. i know you probably didn't mean that, and i'll give you a chance to retract it. is that something you would want to take back? >> i know that across the country our school board meetings are a little bit more intense, but i'll tell you, school boards are unwavering in their support for returning students to school and providing a safe learning environment. >> what about the statement? i agree with you 100% there. would you want to take that back to not politicize something that i think 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'll tell you, the lack of civility in some of our
meetings is disappointing and frustrating, especially because our superintendents and educators and board member, and you should know, you were a board member, they have worked tirelessly over the last 18 months to provide a safety environment. >> and they can get rowdy, and i take it you don't want to retract it at this point. >> rowdy and dangerous in some places. >> indiana has led the nation in school choice. it's something coming through the pandemic that i think it's clear that parents again ought to be the drivers of the equation. i think parents from k through 12 and especially with them that have had kids pursue a four-year degree and they end up in the basement with an unmarketable degree need to have more say-so. they pay the bills through property taxes, then tuition, room and board. fairly quick answers here because i want to get to secretary becerra. do you think parents should be in charge of their child's education as the primary stakeholder? >> i believe parents are
important stakeholders -- >> primary. >> -- but i also believe educators have a role determining educational programming. >> i think that will be different than you'll find all across the nation since they pay the bills, they raise the kids. they probably need to be the primary spokespeople for their own kids. should parents have more options, including private schools? >> as i said in previous hearings, i believe public education schools should be the first option. kids want to be in their neighborhood school, but parents have options and there should be across the country. >> so i think it sounds like you might think there need to be more options. i came from a great public school system. i think competition and choice always exceeds the other things when you want to get real quality at something. should the money follow the
student, or should it follow the school? >> i believe education systems should have strong schools for all students, and i believe we need to make sure we are investing in public schools, because for some students who that's their only option, we need to have that be a high-quality option for all students. >> thank you. secretary becerra, we've been navigating through this saga of fighting the coronavirus, which has been challenging in many respects. the baseline of fighting it have been vaccines. some countries are under 10% vaccination rates. we can see variants come from there normally. what's your opinion on making it maybe a tripod of therapeutics and prophylactics? i know pfizer is out there, i think, addressing a real market need that we not only keep doing what we're doing on vaccines but we put equal emphasis on curing it once you get it and preventing it in the first place. what do you think? >> all of the above, senator. >> when are we going to start pushing it from this level to
where we give resources and emphasis in a more broadbased approach? >> i think at hhs we've been doing that, because the fact we're able to meet so much of the demand these days for therapeutics is a sign of that. but i want to make sure that we remember that it is all of the above. and as my mom used to always tell me, [speaking foreign language] better to prevent than to remediate. so therefore masking, social distancing, all those things is that prevent us from getting sick and therefore needing the things that keep us from dying are the most important things we can do. >> very good. i'm glad you're on board with a broader approach, remediation and protection from it in the first place. thank you. >> thank you. >> i want to thank the witnesses. there being no additional senators up to question, this has been a very important
hearing, both the questions that have been put on the table and questions to follow will put us to work. i want to thank secretaries cardona and becerra for the work you're doing in this challenging time and for having this conversation with us. we look forward to working with you both as we help students, families, educators both get through the pandemic but also grapple with the challenges we discussed today so our schools can get stronger, and many of the issues we talked about are about schools but also quality life in the community. and we'll leave this program here. you can finish watching at c-span.org. live now to the house judiciary committee for testimony by attorney general merrick garland. this is live coverage here on c-span3.