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Republicans pretend they want to let schools decide what's best for students

GOP lawmakers are in favor of giving power back to school districts — unless they disagree with their decisions.

By Josh Israel - August 17, 2021
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Virginia Foxx

Republican lawmakers in recent days have criticized statewide school COVID-19 safety requirements, demanding that such decisions be left up to local school systems. At the same time, Republicans have sought to take those decisions away from school officials who support safety rules.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) appeared on Fox Business on Tuesday and attacked vaccine and mask requirements in Democratic-run states like California.

Asked about “pushback from voters against COVID mandates” in multiple states, he said it “demonstrates that the American people have mostly had enough with these top-down, heavy-handed approaches.”

The Republican minority on the House Education and Labor Committee tweeted a photoshopped image on Monday of President Joe Biden holding a sign that read, “I know better than local leaders,” next to North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx — the top Republican on the panel — holding a sign of her own saying, “Let local school districts decide what’s best for students.”

On Sunday, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas urged an Illinois school to simply defy the state’s mask requirements: “Parents and school board should keep it open, move forward without hesitation… and state-based accreditation should be ignored. We have to roll over these clowns. It’s our lives.”

Virginia Rep. Bob Good posted a video of his own testimony at a local school board meeting opposing COVID-19 safety measures. “School boards and parents must stand in the gap between their communities and woke policies from Washington and Richmond,” he wrote on Saturday.

And Texas Rep. Jodey Arrington pledged, “Whether it’s COVID restrictions or curriculum, I will continue to fight to keep Washington from interfering in our local schools.”

In July, Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas used a similar “local control” argument to smear educators and decry anti-racism education. “DEFUND TEACHERS UNIONS – DEFUND THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – RETURN LOCAL CONTROL,” he demanded.

But while those Republicans demand localities have the power to defy mask and vaccination requirements, they were silent on efforts by GOP governors and legislators to bar local school systems from choosing to adopt requirements.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have each issued executive orders trying to prohibit local mask mandates. When localities tried to defy their orders, Abbott sued and DeSantis threatened to cut their state funding.

Other red states have taken a similar approach.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) said Tuesday that his constituents are “sick & tired of these authoritarian school boards telling them what parental rights they have & don’t have.”

In the same Tuesday interview, Donalds suggested that elected governors should be free to do their jobs — when they are trying to stop COVID-19 safety rules. He praised DeSantis for his botched attempt to cut funds for local school district officials that chose to require mask usage and falsely accused Biden of violating the Constitution by offering federal funds to make up the difference.

“Joe Biden and his education secretary don’t care about our Constitution because the federal government has no authority to pay people in the state of Florida if the governor of that state decides that he’s gonna pull paychecks,” he opined. “That’s not their job, that’s not their authority.”

“The federal government needs to mind its own business and do its job — and let the governors who are duly elected in their states, like ‘America’s Governor’ Ron DeSantis, do their job,” Donalds urged.

Congress appropriated federal funds for schools and it is completely constitutional for the executive branch to send them to Florida schools without DeSantis’ permission.

Contrary to Donalds’ claim, it is his party that is out of step with the will of the American public.

An Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday found that 69% of Americans support mandatory masking in schools — and 77% opposed efforts by Florida and other states to withhold funds to local governments and schools that institute mask requirements.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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