Video: In HELP Committee Hearing, Kaine Pushes for More Affordable COVID-19 Testing, Solutions to Address Teacher Shortage
For video of Kaine’s remarks, click here
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing titled: School Reopening During COVID-19: Supporting Students, Educators, and Families, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine asked Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), what the agency is doing to make COVID-19 rapid tests more affordable and pressed Miguel Cardona, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, about what the Department is doing to address the teacher shortages affecting students in Virginia and across the nation.
“Why are tests in the United States so much more expensive than in countries like Germany or the U.K. or India? And what are we doing to make sure that the costs are costs that people can afford? … I would like to hear what your metric is about not just the supply but what the cost should be to somebody who goes to a pharmacy to buy an over-the-counter test. Because, again, if the research shows that people will get tested if it's a buck or two bucks or three, but they won't get tested if it's $15, they won’t regularly test. But we can have all the supply we want, [and] if the cost isn’t affordable, then people aren’t going to take advantage of it,” Kaine said to Secretary Becerra.
“I'm really worried about teacher shortages and school shortages generally – school bus drivers and guidance counselors. My city of Richmond, my hometown, [they had] 435 vacancies at the start of the school year just a couple weeks back. It's been a very difficult time for teachers, so what are you all doing to kind of put your arms around that problem and focus upon teacher recruitment and retention and teacher preparation, because I think this is a challenge all across the country,” Kaine said to Secretary Cardona.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing teacher shortages across this country, especially in subjects crucial to the future success of our nation’s students, like special education, career and technical education, science, and math. To address the nationwide teacher shortage, Kaine recently re-introduced his bipartisan Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and increase teacher diversity. This legislation will help ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future. Kaine’s PREP Act would, among other things, invest in high-quality teacher residency programs such as Grow Your Own programs and support states in increasing teacher diversity, focusing on high-need schools.
In July, Kaine led 13 of his colleagues in a letter to Senate leadership urging them to invest in a well-prepared, diverse, supported, and stable educator workforce – including through teacher training – in the Build Back Better bill.