WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise (R-La.) penned an op-ed for Fox News calling on Democratic state and local officials to prioritize the reopening of our schools to ensure that students receive the education they need and deserve. Whip Scalise dismantled Democrats’ claim that a return to the classroom would result in the rapid spread of Coronavirus in K-12 schools and emphasized how the failure to provide safe, in-person education to students could set back an entire generation of children.

Click here or read below for the full op-ed.

Rep. Steve Scalise: Open schools now — kids are suffering and face little risk from COVID

Mounting evidence shows that schools need to open their doors to students now. Distance learning is failing our students, widening the achievement gap, and goes against the science.

For months, Democrats claimed schools and their reopening schedules would jeopardize the public’s health and cause COVID-19 cases to skyrocket. We were led to believe that the coronavirus would sweep through our schools and infect many children.

The fearmongering needs to stop. Democrats were wrong.

Brown University researchers recently released concrete data that found minimal evidence that the coronavirus is rapidly spreading in K-12 schools.

The Brown study thoroughly examined 550 schools across 46 states, 300 of which maintained some form of limited in-person operations. The results? There were only 0.076% confirmed cases of COVID-19 for students and 0.15% for teachers, demonstrating that a return to the classroom will not result in the Democrats’ doomsday scenario.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key adviser on the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, is also fully behind children returning to their classrooms. Fauci has repeatedly emphasized that the science showing COVID-19 transmission between students and faculty is negligible.

In fact, keeping students in school is beneficial for their long-term development and for families attempting to navigate this unusual time. Only time will tell the full impact of the decisions made by Democratic state and local leaders to cease our school operations and force students to adopt distance learning. The failure to provide safe, in-person education could set back an entire generation of children.

When Democrats rushed to shutter schools, they did so at the expense of our children. The data show students now failing to meet basic standards is shocking and will have long-lasting repercussions.

In some of our largest, most successful public-school systems, middle schoolers are showing a 300% increase in failing grades. High schoolers are showing an increase of 50%. When we break it down by demographics, it only gets worse.

Distance learning has failed our most vulnerable students. Comparing data from last year to this year, students with disabilities saw a 111% increase in failing to meet standards. Hispanic middle school students saw a 400% increase in failing grades, and low-income middle schoolers saw a 375% increase.

If that isn’t enough to cause an uproar, students failing to even be accounted for should push us all over the edge.

In Alabama, reports indicate 5,000 public school students haven’t been showing up to virtual class and their current whereabouts are unknown. These students will inevitably have a hard time catching up and could cause future enrollment chaos.

Prolonging school closures will only exacerbate problems we currently face, potentially leading to irreversible harm.

Outside of failing to meet standards, closing our schools has stripped students of their opportunity to seek essential services that many families rely on to provide their children healthy meals or tools to cope with mental health issues and abuse. The lack of direct access has placed an undue burden on not just children, but also their families.

A new study by McKinsey and the group Lean In suggests that many women — especially mothers — have had to resort to extremes because of the decision to close schools.

Working women are choosing between their jobs and their families in order to fulfill the requirements of having a child at home full-time. The comprehensive study shows women are leaving their jobs at high rates, likely leading to long-term consequences in our workforce.

The science is clear. It is past time for Democratic state officials to step up, assist school districts in mitigation, and abandon the politics. Prioritizing the reopening of our classrooms will further expedite our recovery and ensure that our children receive the education they need and deserve.