‘Absolute disgrace’: State leaders react to Walz’s plan for upcoming school year

Under Walz's plan, if a county has more than 50 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents over 14 days, then all schools in that county will be prohibited from offering any in-person classes.

Image credit: Twitter via @GovTimWalz

Gov. Tim Walz said his plan for the upcoming school year allows each school district to decide how it wants to operate, whether in person, online, or with a hybrid of the two. 

But Republican lawmakers were critical of the governor’s “Safe Learning Plan,” saying it’s too restrictive to provide districts with any real control.

“This is an absolute disgrace,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa). “The governor’s plan allows for some students in Minnesota to receive quality, in-person instruction while other students are stuck in front of a computer screen. This plan does not benefit our kids. Instead, this plan creates education disparities across the state.”

Under Walz’s plan, if a county has more than 50 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents over 14 days, then all schools in that county will be prohibited from offering any in-person classes. A county needs to have fewer than nine cases per 10,000 residents over a 14-day period in order to resume in-person classes.

“Once again, Gov. Walz failed to get input from the people of Minnesota,” Drazkowski added. “The citizens of our state elected the Minnesota Legislature to represent their interests in state government. However, the governor has circumvented the interests of the people by totally ignoring state legislators. The lack of unity and absence of collaboration is why Minnesota schools are receiving these ridiculous mandates.”

Like Drazkowski, Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan criticized Walz for “circumventing the state Legislature” and ruling the state “unilaterally.”

“Today, the governor exhibited another overreach of power in making decisions about our children’s education by himself. The realities of balancing parenting with employment impact every parent in our state,” she added. “Local control is local control — not Gov. Walz’s strict framework that could impede the education of our children.”

Walz’s plan also requires educators and students at schools offering in-person classes to wear masks.

Another concern of Republicans is that the commissioner of the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Health, will have the ability to force any school to abandon in-person learning if the “learning model being utilized by the district or
charter school is no longer safe.” 

“The Walz administration is attempting to spin this as a decision for school districts to make, but the education commissioner has veto power over any school district that decides to hold classes in-person. That’s the opposite of local control,” Catrin Wigfall, a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, said in a statement. 

“Parents have difficult decisions ahead of them now that the Walz administration has decided most students will start the school year with hybrid or distance learning,” she continued. “If parents had control over their children’s education funding, they could pursue any number of alternative learning models. But with the state controlling each student’s education dollars, the unique needs of families will be impacted, and health, economic and academic disparities will continue.”