The superintendent of the Flint, Mich., schools testified before Congress Wednesday, telling federal lawmakers that the “day has come to stop asking the children of the Flint community to pay the price for the mistakes of others.”
City and school officials in Flint are dealing with the fallout of a contaminated-water crisis, after it was discovered last fall that hundreds, and possibly thousands, of children in the city have high levels of lead in their blood.
“For our students, life has changed. There is the constant stress over unsafe water that disrupts the life of a community that already face a multitude of challenges,” Superintendent Bilal Tawwab told members of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. “There is an inherent struggle between trying to balance the educational needs of the students while meeting their physical and emotional needs in light of this crisis. Across the city, the threat of significant disability is even more serious for Flint’s youngest students, those not yet in school, or the unborn.”
Tawwab told the Democratic lawmakers the district will need help securing resources to develop early intervention programs to support students suffering from the effects of lead exposure and hire educational specialists trained to work with the students.
“We need your leadership in realizing that this is an evolving educational emergency,” the superintendent said.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center in Flint who helped raise the alarm over high levels of lead in the water supply, and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver also testified at the hearing.
The Democratic committee invited Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to appear but he declined.
The crisis has shone the national spotlight on Flint and the well-being of the city’s children.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will participate in a nationally televised debate in the city on March 6. Clinton visited Flint this month, urging Congress to pass a bill that would deliver aid to the cash-strapped city and school district.
Here’s a look at the complete testimony from Tawwab and other participants in the hearing:
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.