On July 26, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education conducted a hearing titled “Generational Learning Loss: The Impact of Prolonged School Closures During the Pandemic.” Chairman Aaron Bean (R-FL) opened the session expressing deep concern about the academic setback suffered by students due to the extended school closures during the pandemic. He highlighted that the widespread closure of schools represented a significant failure in education policy and suggested that research indicated teacher unions played a disproportionate role in these closures.

Panelists provided testimonies and insights into the criticism surrounding school closures and their implications. Derrell Bradford, president of 50CAN, a national nonprofit education advocacy group, pointed out that teachers had the opportunity to negotiate for workplace demands during the pandemic, influencing whether school buildings remained closed or reopened.

Representatives Jahana Hayes (D-Conn) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) emphasized that discussions about the causes and solutions for learning loss should also consider the years of underfunding that public education endured prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mary-Patricia Wray, a parent of a child with disabilities, urged lawmakers to allocate extra funding to schools to support and sustain COVID-19 recovery efforts. She stressed the need for more qualified teachers, evidence-based services, career and technical education, as well as comprehensive behavior and mental health support for students.

Panelist Catherine Truitt, North Carolina’s superintendent of public instruction, highlighted the initiatives in her state aimed at helping students return to their pre-pandemic performance levels. North Carolina established an Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration to assist districts in analyzing data and prioritizing recovery efforts. The state also offers support to districts in effectively utilizing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. While acknowledging that there is more work to be done, Truitt conveyed optimism about being on the path to recovery.

By Miyah Jones, Policy Intern