Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06), Congressman Pete Stauber (MN-08), Congressman Jim Hagedorn (MN-01), Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Senator Paul Gazelka, Minnesota State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Senator Michelle Benson, and Minnesota State House Minority Leader Representative Kurt Daudt sent a letter to Governor Tim Walz urging him to reopen schools across the state based on recent news of rising failing grades in Minnesotan children, and data that has demonstrated schools can conduct in-person learning safely.
This past Wednesday, Governor Walz announced that elementary schools would have the option to return to in-person learning in January. However, this action alone falls short of providing all Minnesota schools the necessary flexibility to quickly return to an in-person environment. The letter urges the Governor to do more to both promote and encourage a timely return to in-person learning at all levels.
Recent reporting has detailed a dramatic increase of failing grades in Minnesota children. These impacts are also felt disproportionately among those learning English, and disabled or disadvantaged children. In Minnesota, there have been 389,171 positive coronavirus cases. Less than 3 percent (10,769) of those cases have been reportedly associated with PreK-12 buildings, and in the last two weeks, 68% of affected schools have reported only one case.
The letter urges the Governor to follow a data-driven approach to schools, which if implemented would allow hundreds of thousands of children to return to an in-person educational setting that has proven to be a more effective learning environment.
"As a father of seven, I have seen through each of my children the importance of socialization and in-person learning. As a Representative, I have seen the toll closed schools have had on children most in need of a quality education, their parents, and our economy. The Governor’s choice to ignore this data has kept the children of Minnesota from reaching their full potential and receiving the education they deserve," said Emmer.
"Many news outlets have reported an alarming rate of students failing classes all across Minnesota, and these closures have disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable among us. For students with disabilities, those from low-income households, English language learners, and those in need of extra assistance, these actions have been a disservice to their educational development. I am urging Governor Walz to follow the science and reopen our schools," Emmer concluded.
“The lockdowns and arbitrary regulations imposed upon school districts by the Walz administration have impaired learning opportunities for Minnesota’s students and led to many falling behind or even dropping out. Students are able to receive in-person learning safely - and for the good of our students - teachers, who are certainly as essential as the tens of millions of Americans who have been working throughout the pandemic, need to return to the classroom. Minnesota’s students, who by age group are least at risk from death or serious long term consequence from the coronavirus, must be granted the right to receive the highest quality education, which can only be achieved though in-person instruction," said Hagedorn.
“As a parent and Representative, I know that keeping kids in school is both beneficial for their long-term development and for parents who are attempting to navigate this difficult period. Failure to provide our children with a safe, in-person learning environment could set back an entire generation of Minnesota’s students and prevent many parents from reentering the workforce as we rebuild our economy. Science has proven that there is minimal risk of COVID spreading in K-12 schools, so I am proud to join my colleagues in calling upon the Governor to safely reopen schools at all levels,” said Stauber.
“The classroom is often the best, safest place for students to learn. There is enough data to support reopening schools and further delays will only exasperate Minnesota’s persistent achievement gap. Keeping students home any longer will have lasting and dramatic problems. We have to get kids back in schools if we hope to change their future," said Gazelka.
"Minnesota families want their children safely back to in-person learning. The science tells us that staff can be kept safe and that children are at low risk for spreading SARS-CoV-2. Schools are where children learn, connect with friends, and so much more. As a mom, I will advocate for the partnership between schools and parents in helping our children become all they can be," said Benson.
"Keeping our schools closed is having devastating consequences for student achievement and is widening Minnesota's achievement gap. We need Governor Walz to follow the data, follow the science, and help students and teachers safely return to the classroom," said Daudt.
Read the letter here.