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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolution

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 21, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, recently Hawaii public schools resumed classes for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Faced with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, our schools had planned to combine in-person, distance, and blended learning this year. Unfortunately, a sudden increase in coronavirus cases required a shift to fully distance learning through the first quarter. Now schools are navigating distance learning as they determine how they will return to the classroom.

The pandemic has made it difficult to plan, and our principals, teachers, parents, and students are doing the best they can. Many are still recovering from earlier this year, when the coronavirus closed campuses for two months--resulting in 46 fewer days in the classroom for students, who almost certainly experienced learning or instructional loss.

I have heard from parents and students, and they have been effusive in their praise for educators who are making this school year work. I have also heard from educators, who have been clear in their need for more training and resources--especially when it comes to learning new strategies for providing effective distance learning and addressing instructional loss in students. Many educators are concerned about how the pandemic will disproportionately impact at-risk and marginalized students. In Hawaii, educators are concerned about how it will impact Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students, who before the pandemic already experienced achievement gaps in reading, math, and science, and graduated from high school and attended college at lower rates than their peers. These are not new challenges that we need to address, but they could certainly be made worse by the pandemic unless we provide the appropriate resources.

Until a vaccine is widely available, we must make decisions based on the best science and public health information we can get in order to keep families, teachers, and school support staff safe. For many school districts around the nation, distance learning will be a key component of our education system, and we owe it to our students to do it right. For these reasons I am introducing the Learning Opportunity and Achievement Act, or ``LOAA'', which would provide professional development and training resources for educators, tutoring and academic services for students, and resources for innovation grants, learning hubs, and research and best practices related to instructional loss in at-risk and marginalized students.

No one anticipated how the coronavirus would change our schools, as the abrupt shift to distance learning this past spring showed. Our educators need additional professional development and training resources so that they can provide the most effective educational experience to students of all ages and backgrounds.

LOAA provides these resources through new and existing programs. Specifically, the bill provides $2.25 billion for ESSA Title II-A programs, $50 million for new professional development programs, and $100 million for new training programs.

Building on what we know about effective professional development, the bill promotes programs that are evidenced-based, collaborative, job-embedded, content-based, and sustained. These kinds of programs will be helpful for educators.

We do not know the full impact the coronavirus will have on schools, but preliminary estimates have indicated that recent closures could result in severe setbacks for students--including, on average, 7 months of instructional loss for all students, 10.3 months for Black students, 9.2 months for Hispanic students, and more than a year for low-income students. LOAA provides $50 million for new tutoring programs to address instructional loss in at-risk and marginalized students.

The bill also includes funding for innovation grants and learning hubs to give public schools the resources they need to provide effective, equitable distance learning opportunities to all students. These resources will allow different school districts to take different approaches based on their local needs and circumstances, while offering opportunities for at-risk and low-income families who cannot afford to create privately tutored ``pods'' to ensure that their children don't fall further behind.

And finally, the bill includes requirements for the U.S. Department of Education to identify and disseminate best practices for schools to address instructional loss. It also requires the Department to study instructional loss in at-risk and marginalized students.

Let me be clear. K-12 schools need additional support during this difficult time. Senate Democrats are fighting to provide this support, including at least $175 billion for K-12 schools, and will continue to do so. But we can go even further to make sure our educators have the resources they need to help students succeed--not only during the 2020- 2021 school year, but also in future years. LOAA would help to provide these resources.

I encourage my colleagues to support this important bill. ______

By Ms. HIRONO (for herself, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Markey, and Mr. Booker):

S. 4837. A bill to repeal the Alien Enemies Act, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.


Ms. HIRONO. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Neighbors Not Enemies Act. This long overdue legislation would repeal the Alien Enemies Act, one of four laws from 1798 that were collectively known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. These controversial laws were enacted during a period of threatened war and were an attempt to severely limit freedom of speech and press and the rights of noncitizen residents. Of the four laws, only the Alien Enemies Act remains in effect. The Alien Enemies Act allows the President of the United States to ``apprehend[ ], restrain[ ], secure[ ] and remove[ ],'' noncitizens without due process during times of war.

In 1941, President Roosevelt used the authority of the Alien Enemies Act to apprehend ``alien enemies deemed dangerous to the public health or safety of the United States by the Attorney General or Secretary of War.'' These actions allowed for the detention of Japanese, Italian, and Germans as well as confiscation of their property. Then in 1942, Roosevelt expanded on his actions by issuing Executive Order 9066, which authorized the mass removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, both U.S. citizens and noncitizens, during World War II. The internment of Japanese Americans was a shameful act, and it was not until 1988 that the Civil Liberties Act was passed, formally apologizing to Americans of Japanese ancestry and providing reparations of $20,000 to each surviving victim who was incarcerated during World War II.

During the 2016 election, Donald Trump invoked President Franklin D. Roosevelt's application of the Alien Enemies Act during World War II when he called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Since taking office, President Trump has continued to advance divisive policies and hateful rhetoric that target and demonize Muslim and other minority communities. The President's cruel anti-immigrant policies have resulted in the separation of children at the border, detention of families with no end in sight, and many more harmful policies that betray the principles and values on which our Nation was built upon.

The President has brought the need to repeal the Alien Enemies Act to the forefront. We must stop his attempts to divide us through intolerance and fear. We must prevent civil and human rights travesties from happening on U.S. soil again. Sadly, we cannot trust the President. The Neighbors Not Enemies Act would help keep our Nation from repeating history in targeting an entire group of noncitizens for unconstitutional and discriminatory arrest, detention, and deportation. The repeal of the Alien Enemies Act is long overdue, and I call on my colleagues in the United States Senate to swiftly pass the Neighbors Not Enemies Act during the 116th Congress.