Majority Leader Gazelka, Senate, pass legislation removing the governor’s authority to close schools via executive order

On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate passed legislation that will protect students’ right to an excellent education at all times. The bill, Senate File 2, removes any governor’s authority to close schools or alter school schedules via executive order. Decisions about opening and closing will be left in the hands of individual school districts moving forward, where local officials have firsthand knowledge of their students’ needs.

“Senate Republicans are putting the decision-making authority back where it needs to be — exclusively in the hands of local school leaders,” Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R- Nisswa) said. “All the science says we can and should open schools for the academic and emotional health of our children. Unfortunately, far too many kids are still receiving most of their instruction by distance learning, which is unacceptable. It’s become obvious the main thing standing in the way from a full reopening of schools are the teacher’s unions. Their demands to delay in-person instruction is failing kids, parents, and our future.” 

The bill says the governor may not use executive order authority to issue any order or to authorize the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed.

Gov. Walz’s executive orders closing schools have been among his most questioned and controversial orders of the outbreak.

There is mounting evidence, including research from the CDC, that schools pose a minimal risk of spreading the coronavirus. A fall Reuters report that studied 191 countries also found no clear link between school reopenings and coronavirus surges. In addition, Axios looked at several studies and found schools are not Covid hotspots, and the Atlantic Magazine wrote that kids are not superspreaders and that it’s time to reopen schools. The New York Times reported on evidence that schools, especially elementary schools, are not “stoking community transmission.”

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