Republican Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tim Scott of South Carolina have introduced an amendment to the budget that will withhold federal relief funds if public schools don't resume in-person learning even after its teachers have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The senators, who submitted the amendment on Thursday, issued a joint statement saying that the proposal was in the students’ best interest.
"Keeping our nation’s students out of the classroom for a year is permanently injuring the educational aspirations and opportunities of an entire generation," said Scott. "The children most negatively impacted are those who are growing up poor, just like I did. While teacher unions and their allies continue to change the rules as we go, we must be clear: if you have been vaccinated, it’s time to get back into the classroom."
Blunt said that prolonged remote learning is hurting students and that many are falling behind in their classes, and experiencing mental health problems.
"Health experts say we should get students back in classrooms. Yet President Biden is picking teachers’ unions over what’s best for kids," Blunt wrote on Twitter.
On his website, Blunt cited a study published in December by McKinsey & Co. that looked at the effects of prolonged remote learning on K-12 students – particularly students of color.
The report concluded that the "cumulative learning loss could be substantial, especially in mathematics—with students on average likely to lose five to nine months of learning by the end of this school year."
"Students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students. While all students are suffering those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss."
Nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced a near-total shutdown of schools across the country, many of them remain closed without a unifying plan to return students to in-classroom learning.
Parents across the U.S. are lobbying for their children to return to in-person learning as some students face the possibility of completing an entire school without entering the classroom – in addition to the months they lost at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Duke Health each released studies showing that in-person learning is generally safe if schools take proper safety precautions.
Fox News’ Evie Fordham contributed to this report.