Bill to remove schools from governor’s powers puts students, educators and communities at risk

Statement from SEIU Local 284, Education Minnesota & Teamsters Local 320

Feb. 18, 2021 – As Senate GOP leaders continue their push to roll back protections on schools, educators and parents speak out about how we all want the same thing – for Minnesota students to be safe and learning in-person with their peers.

120658404_10158803053544675_6371995032952024704_oFollowing the Senate passing SF2 off the floor today, Education MinnesotaSEIU Local 284 and Teamsters Local 320, on behalf of the tens of thousands of educators and school workers we represent and the 1 million students we serve, voiced their strong opposition to SF2. The bill would remove any peacetime emergency restrictions on public schools.

Schools are far too important to be excluded from the governor’s powers, which cover every other sector in our state,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “During a public health crisis, we need fast decisionmaking, based on advice from state health officials, to keep our communities safe.

“During these unprecedented times, Minnesotans expect decisive action, and we cannot let our guard down now. Teamsters Local 320 opposes Senate File 2 because we need strong executive leadership to protect students, teachers and staff in an ever-changing environment,” said Brian Aldessecretary treasurer, Teamsters Local 320.

Getting students into school buildings – and keeping those buildings open – has always been a priority. About 86 percent of school districts are already offering some sort of in-person learning to students. But many of the remaining districts are struggling to meet the high standards for safe operation without additional resources and staff. 

“School staff have been working so hard over the last year through incredibly challenging situations. But for all staff and students to be safe and back in school, we need help and support from our elected officials,” said Kelly Gibbons, executive director of SEIU Local 284, a union of 9,000 school employees from across Minnesota. “Whether it is driving kids to school, feeding lunch, helping in classrooms or fixing a leaky ceiling, our work is the foundation of making our public schools function. School employees want to work, keep their families afloat, and support the kids and their communities during these trying times. We need protections to do that safely.”

If Senate Republicans are serious about controlling the spread of the virus and ensuring there will be safe, in-person learning available for all Minnesota students, we encourage the senators to embrace the latest guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding layers of mitigation.

For starters, Minnesota should put several of the governor’s executive orders into law. This includes protecting workers from unsafe working conditions and retaliation for reporting unsafe conditions and mandating all students in grades K-12 wear a face covering while in school buildings and riding in school transportation vehicles.  

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are more focused on political stunts than leadership. If they did care about keeping schools open safely, they wouldn’t be rolling back the rules and protections we have in place,” Specht said. “Instead, they would be talking about providing the mental health and academic resources students need to catch up after the pandemic year.”

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