On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate passed bipartisan 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.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Minnesota never should have adopted a statewide mandate forcing all of our districts to use the same criteria and protocols for each individual school,” said Senator Weber (R-Luverne). “We know that all of our schools are unique and should have empowered local authorities the flexibility to do what is best for their communities and students. Now, with the data clearly saying it’s safe for schools to reopen, it is time for the Governor to relinquish this authority.”
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.
The legislation passed 40-27 with four Democrats and two Independents joining Senate Republicans.
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.”
On Wednesday, Governor Walz revised his Safe Learning Plan but still holds state authority to change education plans going forward.
“The Governor is slowly tweaking the dials, but he is certainly not moving fast enough,” Senator Weber continued. “His own data indicates that transmission rates for teachers is a minuscule .37% which is astounding. Our students need to be back in the classroom, and prolonging their time out of the classroom is an embarrassment on this administration and Minnesota’s teachers’ unions.”