A group of top Republican lawmakers urged Gov. Tim Walz to put an end to the “academic deterioration” sweeping the state’s schools by ordering a return to in-person learning.
“We are seriously concerned that your past and recent guidance relating to the closure of schools do not rely on the most up to date, data-focused metrics that would allow all Minnesota schools to reopen and continue to provide a nation-leading quality education,” states a letter sent to Walz last week.
The letter was signed by Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, state Sen. Michelle Benson, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, and U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn, and Pete Stauber.
According to the letter, schools nationwide “have reported alarming rises in students failing classes.”
“More specifically, in our state’s capital, failing grades for high school students stands at 40%, twice the amount of a typical year,” says the letter.
The letter references an October study from Brown University, which found that the COVID-19 infection rate nationwide was 0.14% among students and 0.25% among staff.
“Even in high-risk areas of the US, student rates of infection were under 0.5%. Based upon this data, the academic deterioration that has resulted from hybrid and distance learning must not be allowed to continue. Not only will Minnesota’s children suffer with lasting impact, but we will also continue seeing parents struggling to return to work, hampering our economy,” the letter continues.
In Minnesota, public schools have reported 10,769 cases out of 389,171 total cases (as of Dec. 21), and 68% “of affected buildings have only reported one case,” according to the letter.
“If a data-driven approach to stop the spread of the virus were applied to schools, we should see hundreds of thousands of children return to an in-person educational setting that has proven to be a more effective learning environment,” the letter concludes.
Walz has provided elementary schools — not middle or high schools — with the option of returning to in-person instruction beginning Jan. 18.
“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,” Emmer said in a statement.
“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,” he added.