Senate Republicans passed a resolution on Monday to end Governor Walz’s emergency powers, with respect to education, and allow school districts to decide the best option for their students this fall. Additionally, a bill to provide $25 million in grants to reopen schools failed on a party line vote when Senate Democrats refused to support a procedural motion to bring the bill to the floor.
“I am a major proponent of local control, and our local school districts want the ability to decide what is best for their areas concerning how to reopen schools. Choices include in-person, remote, or a hybrid model.” said Senator Andrew Mathews (R- Princeton). “Safety and a good education are the two highest priorities; parents and school districts make decisions regarding those two subjects every day. There should be opportunities for remote learning for those who are uncomfortable with sending their kids back, but neither opening nor closing our schools should be a statewide mandate.”
The resolution states that, for the purposes of emergency powers during the COVID pandemic, the Governor cannot make unilateral decisions to open or close schools.
Recent studies have argued the benefit of reopening schools safely this fall is important for the overall well-being of our 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.”
Parents have weighed in on the issue as well. Nine out of ten parents surveyed by Education Trust reporting that they were worried about their child falling behind due to COVID-related closures. The Minnesota Department of Education’s own survey found 64% of parents want students back in schools this fall.
Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) attempted to bring forward a grants bill for schools from the federal CARES funds. Senate Democrats refused to declare an emergency approval of the bill and appropriate the funds for use in schools immediately. Funds from the bill could be used for personnel and material costs to ensure ongoing student and staff safety and health, and to ensure students receive basic and enriched educational services.