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Houlahan, Quigley, Fitzpatrick Highlight Global Crisis in Education Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation seeks greater understanding of ways the pandemic has widened gaps in education, especially for girls, students with disabilities

WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the updated Global Learning Loss Assessment Act, which would help identify the scope of one of the most significant secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: education loss. The global health crisis has disrupted the education of an estimated 90 percent of students world-wide, meaning that 1.6 billion youth have been negatively affected. The implications are especially dire for up to 24 million students at risk of dropping out of school permanently due to rising levels of child poverty associated with the pandemic.   

“We cannot overstate the profound impact COVID-19 is having on education across the world,” said Representative Houlahan. “This education gap has the potential to hinder global efforts on economic justice, lasting peace, poverty eradication, ending world hunger, gender equity and more. As a steadfast advocate for women and girls around the world, I’m particularly concerned about the harrowing consequences school-aged girls face in light of school closures – including an increased likelihood of gender-based violence. I am glad to be leading a bicameral effort with colleagues from across the aisle to ensure we in the United States are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects of such an education gap and stand up for the world’s youth.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected every corner of the US government, including foreign aid and development,” said Reps. Fitzpatrick and Quigley, Co-Chairs of the International Basic Education Caucus. “USAID’s mission is vital to America’s international relationship building, and Congress needs a thorough understanding of the impact the pandemic has had on that mission if we hope to successfully continue our global basic education programs in the future. A detailed report is the first step to developing that critical understanding and effectively supporting USAID moving forward. We are glad to be leading this bipartisan effort to ensure that the United States is doing everything we can to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and stand up for the world’s youth.”

Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John Boozman (R-AR) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate. 

“Education loss due to the pandemic is going to reverberate throughout the globe long after COVID-19 is contained, and its impact will be more than empty classrooms. Education loss has the potential to fuel hunger, poverty, and violence. It also undermines equality, especially for girls and young women, as well as stability all over the world. We have a responsibility to mitigate this crisis before an entire generation is left behind,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Understanding the impact COVID-19 has on the education of children around the world is important to our long-term investment in international education programs. Having detailed information about these current challenges will help us innovate the delivery of academic opportunities so students can continue to receive a quality education when faced with unexpected circumstances. I appreciate Senator Cardin’s leadership to ensure no student is left behind,” Senator Boozman said.

Serious educational gaps that existed before COVID-19 are being exacerbated as schools have been forced by the pandemic to transition to remote learning or close completely. Children and youth who were already vulnerable, including girls and young women, refugees, and those with disabilities, are likely to be the worst impacted by this loss of access to education. This bill notes the major economic and humanitarian implications of the learning loss, as well as the significant shortage of global financing for international education programs that is predicted. It highlights the need for the United States to promote inclusive learning opportunities, help strengthen education systems, and support the return of children to school across the globe.

If enacted, the bill requires the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit a report within 180 days to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on global learning and basic education programs. It requires the report to be made publicly available and to include:

  • the magnitude of global learning loss
  • the impact of school closures on marginalized and vulnerable children
  • descriptions of forms of distance learning in low resource contexts
  • data on USAID programs being carried out to continue learning during the pandemic
  • USAID’s plan to support education programs during and after the pandemic and the resources needed to do so
  • opportunities for USAID to help expand access to digital infrastructure and internet connectivity

The Global Learning Loss Assessment Act can be downloaded here.

Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee.