U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today introduced the Catch Up Our Kids Act of 2022, legislation that would combat K-12 learning loss that American children incurred due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly every K-12 school switched to remote learning in the Spring of 2020, not returning to in-person learning until Fall 2020 at the earliest, and for many it was longer. Because of this, students fell behind in math and reading, and low-income students were the hardest hit.
The Catch Up Our Kids Act would allow parents to take back control of their child’s education so children can recover from any learning loss resulting from misguided and politically driven pandemic school closures.This proposal includes a mix of tax incentives and re-allocation of some Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funding. As of June 2022, states have not spent the majority of their ESSER allotment.
About the bills Senator Cruz said:
“At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country began to close and ‘go virtual’ in order to protect the health and well-being of our kids. But while the science quickly showed that COVID-19’s impact on schoolchildren was minimal, teachers unions, and liberal bureaucrats across the country were slow to return to normal. Because of this, millions of children across the country fell behind educationally – an outcome far more harmful than the pandemic. This is unacceptable, but the Biden administration has done little if anything to help these kids catch up. As a father, I am personally concerned about educating the next generation. This issue is foundationally important, and the Catch Up Our Kids Act will begin to address the learning loss we’ve seen because of the pandemic, and get our kids back on track.”
The Catch Up Our Kids Act includes the following:
· Learning Loss Tax Credit: Creates a temporary 3-year Learning Loss Tax Credit of $1,200 per-child to allow the parent or legal guardian of a K-12 student to recoup actual expenses incurred for education-related activities.
· Employer Reimbursement: Temporarily extends the tax provision that allows employers to reimburse an employee for certain tuition and education-related expenses on a tax-free basis to include educational expenses for employee’s children.
· Expand 529 ESAs: Expands Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to include homeschool expenses for a period of 3 years.
· Double Coverdell Contribution Limit: Doubles the annual contribution limit for Coverdell ESAs from $2,000 to $4,000 per year for a period of 3 years.
· Favorable ESA Gift Exclusion Tax Treatment: Exempts contributions to a 529 ESA and Coverdell ESA from the annual exclusion, ensuring these gifts do not trigger gift tax consequences.
· Reprogram ESSER Money: Allows states to use unspent Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to fund Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs), using ESSER money as seed money. SGOs would then be able to award parents/legal guardians scholarships.
Read the legislation here.
Support for Sen. Cruz’s Catch Up Our Kids Act:
· American Federation for Children: “Senator Cruz’s bill confirms what we already knew: he is a staunch supporter of educational freedom. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted significant problems in the way our current education system operates, and the only real answer is securing parental rights in education by expanding school choice.”
· Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist: “Democrats immorally shut down schools across the country using COVID as an excuse to do the bidding of teachers’ union bosses. Meanwhile, Republicans are dedicated to expanding school choice and protecting parental control in their children’s education. Sen. Cruz’s bill cuts taxes for parents who did the right thing and made sure their kids were educated when their schools failed them. The bill also expands education savings accounts and empowers families to make the best education decisions for themselves. Americans for Tax Reform applauds the introduction of Senator Cruz’s Catch Up Our Kids Act.”
- Association of Mature Americans: “Your bill, when it becomes law, will stand as a strong mitigation to the deleterious effects of the suboptimal education our students suffered during the COVID-19 school closures. This bill also takes advantage of funding already allocated to our schools such that the net increase in spending to support this effort is minimized.”
· American Principles Project: “Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, public health officials, working hand-in-hand with teachers unions, have done terrible harm to our nation’s families, shutting down schools and setting students significantly behind in their education. And thanks to the monopoly our government has over education, many parents were all but powerless to help their kids. It’s time for that to change. Sen. Cruz’s legislation would be a welcome step towards putting parents back in charge of ensuring their children receive the best education possible. APP fully supports the Catch Up Our Kids Act, and we encourage all pro-family lawmakers to sign on as well.”
· Center for Urban Renewal and Education President &Founder Star Parker: “The ‘Catch Up Our Kids Act’ will empower parents – not government – to make educational decisions on behalf of their children. Millions of students suffered from ill-advised COVID lockdowns, especially children from low-income families, and this legislation will allow parents to guide the educational recovery process for their children. I am pleased to express my strong support for this timely initiative.”
· Concerned Women for America’s Legislative Action Committee, CWA CEO and President Penny Nance: “This is the Year of the Parent, and Senator Ted Cruz’s ‘Catch Up Our Kids Act’ gives parents the tools they need to help their kids take ownership over learning lost during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has revealed with greater clarity why choice in education really matters. We are grateful to Senator Cruz for this important bill that enables parents to have greater access and control over the money necessary to pay for educational activities that are best for their children.”
· FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon: “Heavy-handed lockdown policies destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. Not the least affected are students suffering from severe learning loss due to mass school closure. Senator Ted Cruz’s Catch Up Our Kids Act works to help the students whose education was upended by government lockdowns and embraces the idea that parents should be able to choose their child’s best path for success.”
· Independent Women’s Voice: “School districts and unions hold all the power when it comes to education. The Catch Up Our Kids Act recognizes that the best way to effectively address the learning loss crisis we are in and get students back on track is to put power back into the hands of parents. The bill empowers parents by directing education funding towards students. We thank Senator Cruz for prioritizing parental rights and educational freedom, not bureaucratic systems and union control.”
· Texas Public Policy Foundation CEO Greg Sindelar: “We are grateful to Senator Cruz for recognizing millions of children are behind due to school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, and his commitment to helping every child catch up. The ‘Catch Up Our Kids Act’ will help address our nation’s student learning loss problems by providing resources directly to parents who are looking to help their children. We fully support the ‘Catch Up Our Kids Act’ and hope to see it passed quickly.”