The State moves forward in Attempt to Usurp School Division Authority over Emergency Situations
February 12, 2022
February 12, 2022
Despite major objections to SB739, the House Education Committee voted today to move forward with a very controversial bill that would remove local decision-making power from local school divisions and place it into the hands of the state. Many educators and parents traveled from around the Commonwealth to testify in person at the Capitol in opposition to SB739. Watch the testimony HERE.
The committee moved quickly to disregard opposing views on SB739. In its current posture, SB739 has become a major overreach of power by the state to control the local school divisions decisions on whether to move to virtual learning options in cases of emergencies, such as threat situations involving HVAC related emergencies, or other types of emergencies that could affect the safety and health of students. In addition, this bill could very well affect exacerbate the issue schools are facing around the teacher, substitute teacher, and bus driver shortages. Over the past months, we have seen many schools shut down periodically due to these shortages. SB739 would prevent the district from moving to a virtual learning scenario in these types of situations.
Senator Dunnavant, the patron of SB739, was quick to spread misinformation that SB739 is somehow a bipartisan piece of legislation. SB739 very narrowly passed the state Senate by a vote of 21-17. I don’t believe this constitutes a bipartisan agreement.
Senator Dunnavant also stated that the issue of masking has become politicized “because political entities have made universal mandated decisions for children and families.” I would have to agree with Sen. Dunnavant on this statement if you agree the political entity she is referring to is the Youngkin administration. Youngkin supporters regularly used the masking issue during his campaign as a political wedge and played on massive amounts of misinformation to create false narratives. This propaganda continues today in fueling the divisiveness through unwarranted executive orders and so-called “tip-lines” to report teachers. This politicization has pitted families against families, parents against parents, parents against educators, and is dividing our communities.
And lastly, but most importantly, Senator Dunnavant also claims that “the data on masks does not show any decrease in transmission of COVID in schools that are masked as compared to schools that are unmasked. That means the medical evidence doesn’t support an intervention.” It is very surprising that a licensed medical physician such as Dunnavant would only point to research that supports her bias towards the issue of masking.
Several studies over the past year have shown that widespread masking can significantly curb transmission from student to student.
For example, one study in Wood County, Wisconsin, last fall found that schools that required masking had a whopping 37 percent lower incidence of COVID-19 than the surrounding community. Another study, conducted in Salt Lake County, Utah, last winter, found that high levels of mask-wearing among students helped keep the rate of in-school spread of the coronavirus to under 1% — even as COVID-19 cases were surging in the wider community.
Now, in all those examples, schools were also using other protective strategies that experts strongly recommend layering on — like physical distancing and opening windows. But studies show that even in situations where these other measures aren’t being used, masking makes a big difference in keeping the virus from spreading. That was one conclusion of the ABC Science Collaborative, a major research initiative involving nearly 1 million students from 100 school districts and 14 charter schools in North Carolina.
It found that universal masking policies helped keep transmission rates of the coronavirus within schools to under 1% last fall and spring.
“The science clearly shows us that masking is an effective strategy to prevent within-school transmission when COVID-19 is circulating and when vaccination is not yet available for all children,” Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman, co-chair of the ABC Science Collaborative, said in a statement reviewing those findings.
Now, most of those studies were conducted before the highly contagious delta variant began its current sweep across the U.S. But unpublished data, gathered during this past summer school session in North Carolina, shows that transmission was indeed a bit higher as delta spread in the surrounding communities. But even then, thanks to universal masking and other mitigation strategies, the rate of within-school spread was under 3%, says Dr. Ibukun Kalu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke and also a member of the ABC Science Collaborative research team.
So, on the issue of masking, VEA finds SB 739 and Senator Dunnavant wrong on this one. First and foremost, local communities should never give their control up to the state and all parents need to understand that bills, like SB739, are the first step in taking away their rights. Remember the old saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
SB739 will now move to the floor of the House of Delegates. We encourage our members to reach out to their Delegate and ask them to oppose SB739. Members and stakeholders may take action HERE.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers in Virginia earn 32.7% less in weekly wages than other (non-teacher) college-educated workers. Virginia’s teacher wage penalty is the worst in the nation.Take Action Now