Senator Mathews supports bill passed by Senate bill to limit Governor’s authority to close schools with emergency powers

The Minnesota Senate today approved a bipartisan bill to protect students’ right to a great education at all times. The legislation, Senate File 2, authorizes local public schools to make their own decisions regarding how they conduct student instruction during a pandemic or any other emergency. 

“This should have been the default option from the beginning of the pandemic,” Senator Andrew Mathews (R-Princeton) said, “Minnesota is a diverse state with communities with vastly different needs. For Governor Walz to hold all the power over schools is an abuse of his power. Each school district amplifies the voices of their students, parents, and communities, but Governor Walz has taken their voice away and replaced it with his own agenda. I am glad this bill passed the Senate and am hopeful that we can move past the bureaucracy and pass some quality legislation that will help children and families throughout the state.”

The bill says the governor may not use peacetime emergency powers to issue any order or to authorize the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed. The governor may “advise and consult with school leaders regarding any action needed for emergency management purposes.”

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

There is conclusive evidence, including research from the CDC, that schools pose minimal risk in 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 superspreadersand that it’s time to reopen schools. The New York Times reported on evidence that schools, especially elementary schools, are not “stoking community transmission.”

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.” 
  • According to the Pioneer Press, close to one-third of middle and high school students in St. Paul are reported to be failing classes
  • UNICEF has warned of a ‘lost generation’ and 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. Studies cited in the report showed “no consistent association between school reopening status and COVID-19 infection rates.
  • NPR reported that there are increased reports of suicide and suicide attempts as students struggle to cope with the pandemic.
  • The Sahan Journal found the pandemic has had a “devastating” impact on communities of color in St. Paul Public Schools.
  • CBS reported on a U.K. education watchdog that found kids have seriously regressed due to Covid-19.