Senator Jeff Howe, Minnesota Senate Pass Bill with Bipartisan Support to Protect Students’ Rights to Education

The Minnesota Senate today 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.

“We need to think about what is best for our students and we absolutely have to get them back in the classroom,” said Senator Jeff Howe (R-Rockville). “Our communities and districts are diverse and have unique needs, and Governor Walz has dragged his feet on this issue long enough. There’s absolutely no reason our kids should be sequestered in their homes when evidence suggests schools pose a minimal risk of spreading. This is another example of the Governor ignoring the data.”

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.

Yesterday, 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.

“The fact of the matter is that Governor Walz isn’t actually making any substantial changes,” continued Senator Howe. “Instead he is trying to take credit for the plans that Senate Republicans have been pushing for months, the focus should be on returning the decision making process back to the local officials.”

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.