Senator introduces bill to remove governor’s authority to close schools unilaterally

Nelson's bill would change current law to prevent governors from ordering schools closed or “authorizing the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed” during a peacetime emergency. 

Sen. Carla Nelson (pictured center)/Twitter

State Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, recently introduced legislation that would prevent Gov. Tim Walz, and any future governors, from closing schools via executive order.

Nelson, the former chair of the Senate Education Committee, introduced a bill last week that would eliminate “the authority for the governor to use peacetime emergency authority to impose restrictions on schools.”

“We have to think about what is best for students above all. At this point in the pandemic, there is widespread agreement about the importance of getting students back into the classroom,” Nelson said in a press release.

“Our 300 school districts and 100 charter schools are diverse in every way; each district has unique needs and circumstances. The decision on how and when to reopen should not be made from the governor’s office. It should come from local school boards and community leaders. They are the ones who know what is best for their students. They should be given the option to decide how and when to open their schools,” she added. 

Nelson and her colleagues frequently point out that the American Association of Pediatrics, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, and even Dr. Anthony Fauci support in-person learning. 

“There is mounting evidence that schools pose minimal risk in spreading the coronavirus, including a Reuters report that studied 191 countries [and] found no clear link between school reopenings and coronavirus surges,” says the press release.

Nelson’s bill would change current law to prevent governors from ordering schools closed or “authorizing the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed” during a peacetime emergency. 

“The governor may not use any authority provided under this chapter to prevent the typical presence of students in school buildings,” the proposed changes state.