House Committee Holds Hearing on Academic, Social, and Emotional Needs of Students
On September 20, the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee within the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing to discuss how to best meet students’ academic, social, and economic needs in the upcoming school year, especially after the disruption of online learning during the pandemic. The witnesses were Phyllis Jordan, Associate Director of FutureEd, Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, President and CEO of Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, Dr. Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Commissioner of Education in the Tennessee Department of Education, and Dr. Matthew Blomstedt, Commissioner of Education in the Nebraska Department of Education.
Committee Chair Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), joined by Representative Burgess Owens (R-UT) standing in for Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), oversaw the hearing. In his opening statements, Sablan called for sustained funding to get students back on track and to help them return to schools safely, while Representative Owens criticized the decisions to close down schools and claimed the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds were being used to reward political allies instead of helping students. The witnesses underscored the importance of using evidence-based practices to support students’ mental health and highlighted ways that schools were using their funding to provide mental health professionals and high-dosage tutoring for students. Democratic members of the committee were interested in how to adequately support students’ social needs— especially the needs of students from marginalized communities— whereas Republicans of the committee were concerned about how to hold states accountable for the funding given to them through the relief package and the effects of online learning on students. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) urged her peers to vote for her Arts Education for All Act (H.R. 5581), a bill that expands arts education programs and calls for centers within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to carry out research and collect data on arts programs in elementary and secondary schools. The committee concluded with a reinforcement of Congress’s commitment to getting students back on track and providing them the resources or funding to do so. A recording of the hearing is available on the Education and Labor Committee website.
This article was contributed by COSSA intern Rachel Chen of the University of Texas at Austin.