Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a bill Tuesday that will help American students who fell behind in school during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown get back on track.
The "Catch Up Our Kids Act of 2022" is specifically designed for K-12 students, particularly those who sustained learning losses during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic seasons — when plenty of school districts nationwide were closed and only offered virtual instruction.
Cruz's office said it was particularly concerned about students lagging behind with math and science development, including those from low-income environments.
"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," said Cruz.
The Texas Republican added, "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 contains the following measures:
- Learning Loss Tax Credit: A three-year Learning Loss Tax Credit of $1,200 per-child, allowing a K-12 parent or legal guardian 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) to include homeschool expenses for a period of three years.
- Double Coverdell Contribution Limit: Doubles the annual contribution limit for Coverdell ESAs from $2,000 to $4,000 per year, for a three-year period.
- 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.
According to Cruz's office, as of June 2022, most states have not spent the majority of its ESSER allotment.
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