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Statement in Support of the Biden Administration’s $10 Billion Investment to Reopen Schools

NEW YORK | March 17, 2021 – The Rockefeller Foundation applauds the Biden Administration’s commitment to safely and sustainably reopening America’s schools by allocating $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan towards regular testing of students, teachers, and staff. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing inequities in the nation’s public education system. After a year of virtual learning, students – especially those most underserved – have been falling off track. They are socially isolated, missing meals, facing abuse and neglect, and missing the mark in the classroom. As The Rockefeller Foundation’s research and funded pilots in 6 locations across the U.S. made clear in December 2020, this substantial commitment of funds will empower school districts across the country to reopen safely with regular testing of students, teachers, and staff.

Dr. Raj Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation: “One year into the pandemic, we’ve learned not only how school closures are leaving the nation’s children worse off but also how we can work together using evidence-based solutions to get children back on track.  Since we released the findings from our report in December, the data is encouraging: schools are reopening safely around the country.  We appreciate President Biden’s commitment to building on this early success and making it sustainable, and we look forward to working with the HHS as well as our partners in public health, education and governments around the country to continue to implement our plan’s recommendations and get children back in the classroom.”

In December 2020, The Rockefeller Foundation released a landmark report, which reflected the research and recommendations of 150 experts, that recommended twice a week testing for teachers and staff and once a week testing for students alongside other mitigation measures to safely get students and teachers back to in-person instruction.  Routine asymptomatic testing creates an early warning system to stop outbreaks before they spread to others in the school and the wider community.  Early results from six K-12 testing pilots, funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and facilitated by a Memorandum of Understanding between the Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and an independent assessment of school testing programs across the country, found that that weekly testing of all students, teachers, and staff reduces in-school infections by an estimated 50 percent. In addition to the report, The Rockefeller Foundation supported the production of a K-12 Testing Playbook, which provided detailed, step-by-step guidance to districts and schools on how to set up testing programs, and the development of testing protocols released in October 2020 by Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

These new resources will give schools and their districts the resources to pay for tests and manage the complex logistics of an effective testing program. The federal funding and technical assistance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from state and local health departments will go a long way to reducing the logistical challenges in standing up and implementing screening testing programs. By building on the important insights and implementation lessons from the early adopters of Covid-19 testing in schools, the United States can now tackle the challenge of reopening K-12 schools with the urgency it deserves.

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