Republican lawmakers want to strip the governor of his ability to “unilaterally” close schools during a peacetime emergency.
Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, authored a bill that would make Gov. Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency powers invalid in the realm of shutting down in-person school. The governor may “advise and consult” with school boards and leaders, but may not take any action himself, the bill states.
According to a press release from the Senate Republican Caucus, Walz’s executive orders closing schools “have been among his most questioned and controversial orders.”
Nelson’s bill would ensure that school districts themselves have the authority to make decisions based on what is best for their students.
House Republicans held a press conference Thursday to support the proposal and inform the public on why it’s necessary.
“Our bill simply puts the control back into the hands of the school districts, the school boards, who know better than anybody else how to manage their learning environments,” Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said.
Tens of thousands of students are still learning from home. Rep. Patricia Mueller, R-Austin, who is an English teacher, said she has seen an “incredible drop in student engagement” in her experience with distance learning.
“Classrooms are meant to be collaborative and social and interactive,” Mueller said.
Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, Republican lead on the House Education Policy Committee, noted that Walz needs to take the blame for the drop in student success.
“I hope Gov. Tim Walz is ready to take responsibility for the greatest increase in the achievement gap in the history of this state,” Erickson said.
Rep. Bjorn Olson, R-Elmore, who is also a teacher, stated in the press conference that districts have “felt pressure from the state to stay in line with the governor’s executive orders, even when local conditions didn’t warrant it.”
“Local school districts are closest to their communities and always want what’s in the best interest of students, parents, and teachers. There’s no reason they should be looking over our shoulder worrying about consequences from the governor and his agencies,” Erickson added.
The bill passed out of the Senate State Government committee earlier this month and could be voted on by the full Senate in the coming weeks.