The Republican House representatives — including Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La; James Comer, R-Tenn.; Virginia Foxx, R-S.C., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. — submitted a written request to House committee chairpersons involved in coronavirus and education asking for the investigation.
The request cites concerns that schools did not fully enforce standards for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bill asked for students with disabilities to receive a “free appropriate public education,” but those same students appear to be falling behind, lawmakers say.
“States and localities are not meeting even the minimal requirements,” the representatives claimed in the request. “We are hearing from parents across the U.S. whose children with disabilities are bearing the greatest burden as schools remain closed.”
More than seven million students with disabilities attend schools across the U.S., according to the Department of Education 2021 budget.
The investigation would aim to determine the full effect of remote learning and the decreased social interaction for students who are in the most need of support, even without the pandemic.
The Republicans also called for a return to in-person education, which they say could benefit special needs students who need to see their friends and engage in recreation.
The representatives argue that much of the blame rests with the Biden administration for not “forcefully” recommending schools open.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reiterated its stance over the past few months that schools can reopen for younger students — between pre-K and eighth grade — saying that such students have not demonstrated any meaningful contribution to increased community transmission.
“The science is clear — it is safe to reopen schools. Getting all children back to full-time, in-person instruction, especially those with special needs and disabilities, must be a bipartisan priority,” the request concludes. “If states or localities are violating federal civil rights laws to the detriment of students, they must be investigated, and their actions corrected.”