WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As students grapple with the long-lasting impacts of pandemic school shutdowns, lawmakers are looking to help kids get back on track. They held a hearing on Wednesday focused on COVID learning loss. 

Almost immediately the division between parties was clear. While Democrats argue the school shutdowns were a necessity, Republicans disagree. They say classrooms were forced to stay closed for far too long. 

“If we would have kept schools open more, people would have died due to COVID,” Congressman Jamaal Bowman said. 

“We must demand accountability for those responsible. We must decentralize the decision-making power for education in this country and above all that means school choice,” Congressman Aaron Bean said. 

Bean says the pandemic demonstrated the need to give parents more of a say. He believes the federal government should focus their investments more in areas like charter and private schools. 

“Let’s empower parents. If we’re going to put more money in it, let’s let parents choose where that money is spent,” Bean said. 

As Congress tries to figure out a budget, Democrats are fighting to spend more money on public schools. 

“We need to invest in our teachers, invest in our children and invest in our schools and communities that have been historically neglected,” Bowman said. 

Bowman says federal funding is critical to recovery efforts. 

But Congressman Burgess Owens pointed out that Congress already spent billions on post-pandemic education efforts, and he questioned its effectiveness. 

“Much of this is unaccounted for, wasted, unused, and going to the union coffers,” Owens said. 

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici says those funds are starting to help make up for learning loss and insists Republicans are pushing for the wrong reforms. 

“Promises and policies are now being undermined, unfortunately, by extreme Mega Republican agenda that is putting politics over people and culture wars over classrooms,” Bonamici said.