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Guest Opinion: It's time to get kids back into schools full time

Instead of getting kids back in schools, full-time for in-person learning, and providing schools with the funding they need to make this happen, Democrats and Governor Walz are pushing an education plan that puts bureaucrats before schools and crushes local school districts with significant new mandates.

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Rep. Sondra Erickson
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The COVID-19 pandemic and government-mandated shutdowns have caused significant economic and social damage across our communities and state. Since his peacetime emergency declaration 14 months ago, Governor Walz has made a series of unilateral decisions that resulted in collateral damage Minnesotans will feel for generations.

No single group will feel the long-term impacts of his heavy-handed shutdowns more than our school-aged children.

Related: Minnesota governor presses Senate to OK $150 million summer school plan

For months, schools in Minnesota were closed by Governor Walz, forcing thousands of students to attend classes virtually. The decision to close schools in Minnesota was met with skepticism because science made clear very early in the pandemic, that students and teachers could safely be in school. This understanding was reinforced by real-world experience as states and countries around the world kept schools open during the worst of the pandemic with little issues.

The lack of social interaction has caused immense social and emotional damage for many of Minnesota’s youngest learners. It also resulted in a lost year of learning for many students, especially students of color—further widening the state’s achievement gap.

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Time is running out to make up for the lost time.

Related: Minnesota COVID-19 restrictions to lift, disagreements remain over state's path forward

Instead of getting kids back in schools, full-time for in-person learning, and providing schools with the funding they need to make this happen, Democrats and Governor Walz are pushing an education plan that puts bureaucrats before schools and crushes local school districts with significant new mandates.

Governor Walz’s latest “summer school” proposal gives only 51% of the funding to summer learning programming and only 36% directly to schools.

Spending increases should be directed to schools equally on a per-pupil basis and with local control. These funds should not be funneled through state agencies or other bureaucracies. We also need to empower schools to have more control over their learning models to re-open for all students while also providing a distance-learning option for families that may not be ready to return to in-person learning.

Schools should be focusing their efforts on making sure that students return to school and improve on core skills like reading, writing, and math. Instead, Democrats are pushing controversial social studies standards and other curriculum aimed at political correctness and political ideology.

Related: Brainerd school official says social studies update will not oust American flag, pledge After public concerns about the Minnesota Department of Education's ongoing update of state social studies standards, Tim Murtha, director of teaching and learning at Brainerd Public Schools, spoke to the standards and quelled some of the misconceptions.
This is wrong for Minnesota and is not what our schools should be spending their time on.

Families and students expect Minnesota’s schools to prepare Minnesota’s youngest learners for a future of success by promoting high standards and academic basics to help students develop intellectually and cognitively.

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Teachers and families understand the importance of having kids in the classroom. The proposal the governor is pushing does not allocate funding equally across the state and would do little to reverse the damage he has caused.

It is time to get kids back in schools and start the process of recovering from a year and a half of failed policies. The future of Minnesota depends on it.

Erickson, R-Princeton, represents Minnesota House District 15A and is the Republican education policy lead.
Related Topics: CORONAVIRUSTIM WALZ
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