WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of getting all children back to school and the progress she has seen in Tennessee on this front.
To watch Senator Blackburn’s speech, click below or here.
You can read the transcript recorded in the Congressional Records below or click here.
MRS. BLACKBURN: Madam President, I know that some of my colleagues
have been talking about schools, getting children back to school,
getting schools reopened. Indeed, in Tennessee, that is a topic that
has received a good bit of conversation. All but two of our school
systems have been open and working this entire school year, and those
other two systems have recently reopened since the first of the year.
Our school superintendents, our directors of school, our parents, our
teachers, and the students have all worked together as a team--a solid,
cohesive team--to make this happen.
I think there are two main points that we have seen, and as we are
holding meetings with our county elected officials and city officials
and as they talk about the efforts that they have made in getting
children back into the classroom, we hear a lot about one point. That
is that our Governor, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, made it clear that
the school districts would be responsible for the ``how'' they were
going to open and the ``when'' they would be reopening. I really thank
him for listening and recognizing that local officials and individuals
in the community really do know what is best for their school districts
and their students.
The second point is that these plans didn't just drop out of the sky.
As I said, this has been a team effort in our communities, and it has
happened because there was this agreement between the administrators
and the parents and the teachers that they were going to make decisions
that were going to be best for the children. So when you look at
Tennessee and how they have approached this--indeed, the schools
reopening and how they proceeded--it was done with the children in
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with school administrators
from West Tennessee, who played a part in developing their own
reopening plans. I cannot adequately describe to you with the time that
we have on the floor today the amount of work and the thoughtfulness
that they put into these schedules, from health and safety
considerations, to scheduling changes, to the complicated logistics of
social distancing and cramped classrooms. They thought it all through
by walking through the day and listening to what teachers and parents
had to say as to how they would walk through this day.
They took the millions of dollars in CARES Act funding that the area
received, and what did they do with that money? They invested in the
best possible plan for these kids--no Federal mandate or sweeping
litmus test required. They said: We are going to do what is right by
Then, of course, they turned on the TV, and they saw that the Biden
administration was busy walking back their own enthusiastic scientific
guidance on safely reopening schools--walking it back--and they didn't
have to flip too many channels to figure out why. Powerful teachers
unions had taken their own stands in refusing to make a plan, in
refusing to think things through, and in some cases in refusing to go
to work at all--not doing what is best for the children but doing what
was going to serve their interests first and, in their opinions, what
would best serve their interests. That, I think, they will see were
Educators in Tennessee were not just confused by what they saw; they
were insulted because they knew exactly what was happening. On January
26, CDC officials released a study showing that, if we were careful,
safe reopening was indeed possible. Administration officials touted
that report as a light at the end of a very long COVID pandemic, but
now, just a few weeks later, those same officials are defying their own
experts, insisting that safe reopening can only happen if Congress
approves additional funding contained in the Democrats' latest,
untargeted spending bill.
Students in this country are suffering. They are lonely, they are
bored, and many of them are struggling with clinical depression and
anxiety. Teen pregnancy, teen alcohol, and suicide rates are rising.
Children need to be in in-person school.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly stated--bear in
mind, this isn't something that I am saying; it isn't something that is
partisan; it is the American Academy of Pediatrics--that it is not only
feasible but necessary for students to be back in school, back in the
classroom, back to seeing their friends, back to participating in
extracurricular activities and sports.
I would ask my colleagues across the aisle to keep this in mind when
they hear from so-called stakeholders who are willing to hold a child's
mental health hostage in exchange for a political win that will serve
their power and their purposes and not that of the child's. They might
have powerful voices in the cable news circuit, but those sound bites
will provide you no cover back home with the teachers and
administrators who have rolled up their sleeves, have gotten to work,
and have figured out a way to get schools open for the children.
I yield the floor.