special: Rep. Burgess Owens and Sen. Tim Scott introduced legislation in the US House and Senate this week to combat learning losses during Covid.
Owens, R-Utah, introduced the Child Opportunity Vouchers for Educational Recovery (RECOVER) Act in the House on Friday, which would use unspent funds from the American Rescue Plan to issue child opportunity scholarships directly to parents.
Owens told Fox News Digital that “there’s one group that’s been really negatively impacted over the last two years, and that’s low-income and minority students.”
“It allows parents to take scholarship funds… and use them, so their kids can catch up,” he said. “Whether it’s tutoring, whether it’s books – whatever it takes to make sure their kids can learn, that’s what they’re using.”
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These scholarships are used by low-income families for educational opportunities, including tutoring services, private school tuition, testing fees, educational remediation for children with disabilities, and books or other course materials.
According to data from the US Department of Education, districts have yet to spend 93% of the $122 billion allocated for K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan.
Owens predicted the legislation would face opposition from unions, but said parents have become more involved in their children’s education in the past two years and are beginning to push back on unions.
“The bottom line is, we have an education system that’s not trying to save our kids, not trying to educate our kids,” Owens said.
Federal funding has already been allocated, meaning the law involves no new spending and gives school districts and families flexibility in how the funds are spent, Owens noted.
“The main point is that this is a two-way conversation,” he added. “We all want to make sure our kids are cared for, educated and competitive. We need to have educational freedom, and we’re seeing now that those who lack it are the most at risk.”
Scott, R.S.C., who introduced the companion legislation in the Senate on Thursday, told Fox News Digital that “as children struggle to recover from months of learning loss, school districts sit on billions of dollars in federal funding.”
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The legislation, Scott added, gives unused funds to parents “who don’t let a penny go to waste.”
“They will use every resource to ensure their children live up to their God-given potential – just like my mother did for me,” he said.
According to a report by educational software company Renaissance, students underperformed in the 2021-2022 school year compared to the 2020-2021 school year.
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For students in first grade or below, reading outcomes were “concerning,” according to Renaissance, which noted that school closures could disrupt basic reading skills for students ages 5 and 6. Beginning literacy scores for pre-readers in this grade level were on average 19 points lower during the fall of 2021 and 17 points lower than in the winter, the study found.