One of the things I hear about most frequently is that parents want to get their kids back into the classroom full time. The governor finally made progress in that direction this week, but his plan still doesn’t seem to move as fast as parents would like.

The big issue is that decisions about school closures should not be in the hands of any governor. Those decisions should be made by school districts.

In a bipartisan vote this week, the Senate passed a bill authorizing local public schools to make their own decisions regarding how they conduct student instruction during a pandemic or any other emergency.

It’s hard to overstate the harm that school closures have caused to children. It is inexcusable, especially considering that for many months we have had significant evidence showing that not only can schools safely open, but keeping them closed is far worse for students. The problem is that one person should not have the power to make such a consequential decision. It should be left to local school officials who know their communities best.

The bill is simple: it says that 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.

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-19 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.”

There is also widespread 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 on the social and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on kids, including increased reports of suicide and suicide attempts.

• The Sahan Journal found the pandemic has had a “devastating” impact on communities of color in St. Paul Public Schools.

If you have any questions about this bill or any other issue the legislature is working on, feel free to contact me any time at sen.john.jasinski@senate.mn or 651-296-0284. It is a privilege to serve you!


John Jasinski, R-Faribault, represents District 24 in the Minnesota Senate.

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