Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, announced Thursday he is co-sponsoring a bill that would require K-12 schools to have plans to have at least 50% in-person attendance if they want to receive their share of federal COVID-19 funds.
The congressman also voted along party lines Thursday, casting a vote against the LGBTQ rights bill, the Equality Act, which would protect individuals from discrimination based on gender identity, sex and sexual orientation in areas such as education, employment and housing.
The Reopen Schools Act, or House Resolution 682, was introduced by Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and co-sponsored by more than two dozen other Republicans and no Democrats.
The bill proposes to make two-thirds of the $54 billion in COVID-19 funds for K-12 schools available only after states approve local education agencies’ “comprehensive school reopening plan based on criteria determined by the governor in consultation with the state educational agency,” according to the text of the legislation.
Plans must include that schools will offer in-person instruction for at least 50% of their students where they can attend no less than 50% of each school week as is safe and practicable, and a timeline for when they will provide on-campus learning again. If a school does not reach the 50% target, they will receive prorated funding based on their in-person attendance, the bill adds.
“From day one, I have been adamant about getting our kids back into school,” said Garcia in a prepared statement. “For too long we’ve neglected our children’s need for in-person education and the sanctity of their mental health. We need to get our kids back in school safely and as quickly as possible. The Reopen Schools Act will incentivize schools to reopen safely so that our children no longer suffer.”
The House passed Thursday the Equality Act (H.R. 5) with a 224-206 vote, mainly along party lines with the exception of three GOP lawmakers.
Garcia was unavailable for comment regarding his vote against the bill but issued a statement on social media, saying the following:
“All Americans deserve equality and justice. But equality that comes at the expense of or as a detriment to other free citizens is contrary to American ideals. We can protect classes of Americans without stripping the rights of others.”
The Equality Act now heads to the Senate.