Senator Eric Pratt, Minnesota Senate Pass Bill to Protect Students’ Rights to Education

The Minnesota Senate yesterday passed legislation that would remove 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.

“Our kids absolutely need to be back in classrooms,” said Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake). “Our local districts are better-equipped to make these choices for their own staff and students—they are more nimble and better able to assess an issue without waiting for an answer from St. Paul. With mounting evidence suggesting that schools pose a minimal risk for spreading coronavirus, we need to trust our local school boards to get their staff and students back in the classrooms in the safest possible manner.”

The bill ensures that moving forward, no governor may 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.

On Wednesday, Governor Walz also presented his updated Safe Learning Plan, which only says that students can return to the classroom, but still fails to put the decisions back in the hands of school leaders. This update comes after Senate Republicans last week announced that SF-2 would be moving forward.

“We have already been discussing this for months and frankly, Governor Walz is late to the game,” continued Senator Pratt. “These decisions need to be made on the local level, not by one person in Saint Paul.”

There is mounting evidence, including research from the CDC, that schools pose a minimal risk of spreading. There is also agreement about the impact distance learning is having on students:

  • The American Association of Pediatrics has said, “The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.” 
  • UNICEF has warned of a ‘lost generation’ found school closures are ineffective. “Even with the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, a new report by UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, warned that “the future of an entire generation is at risk,” with the threat to children “increasing, not Studies cited in the report showed “no consistent association between school reopening status and COVID-19 infection rates.