ST. PAUL – With thousands of Minnesota students still in remote learning, House Republicans on Thursday moved to take urgent action on legislation providing more local control over school-related decisions and removing the governor’s ability to unilaterally keep them closed.
State Rep. Shane Mekeland, R-Clear Lake, supported the plan and said many students and families continue suffering detrimental impacts of distance learning as it takes a toll on academic achievement, mental health, and more.
“This bill is all about the ability and the right for parents to make decisions they deem best for their children,” Mekeland said. “Adding local control would provide parents with greater opportunities to work with their local district officials to make sure particular needs are met. It also would enhance accountability, which is crucial in the process of making educational decisions that best suit personal preferences for the overall health and welfare of our kids.”
While many area schools have returned full time, many more remain in part-time or full-time distance learning. Mekeland said the science and data show we can safely get our students back in the classroom. He noted President Joe Biden’s CDC director has said multiple times that we could safely return to in-person learning before all teachers are vaccinated.
Mekeland said he’s disappointed the governor continues to ignore the science and is failing to bring teachers and students safely back to the classroom in schools throughout the state.
“School districts have felt pressure from the governor and his administration to follow their marching orders regardless of what their local scenario may be,” Mekeland said. “We have seen the same thing in the state’s heavy-handed treatment businesses. That culture of fear and intimidation has no place in our state’s business community, much less in our schools where it even more directly impacts our children.”
The House Republicans’ proposal to act on the bill (H.F. 1051) Thursday failed on a party-line vote, with House Democrats blocking the effort and voting in favor of allowing the governor to keep his school-closing authority. A similar proposal cleared its first committee stop in the Senate earlier this month and could come up for a vote in the coming weeks.