(HARRISBURG) – Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33) quizzed Wolf Administration officials during a Senate Education Committee hearing Friday about COVID-19 policies and mask mandates for local school districts.
“The parents need to be able to make the choice because they know better than bureaucrats or anyone else what is best for their children,” Senator Mastriano said. “I want to leave it in the hands of the parents.”
Both the Department of Health and the Department of Education emphasized that Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations should be followed, including those calling for universal masking of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam indicated the Wolf Administration supports the CDC recommendation and is asking school districts to follow it; however, the administration has no plans to institute a statewide mask mandate.
Senator Mastriano questioned if recommending that school districts mandate masks in school was necessary given the known adverse effects on children and the limited data that shows the benefits.
“Schools districts fear that their funding will be withheld if they do not strictly follow COVID recommendations,” Senator Mastriano said. “I’ve also heard from school board members concerned that they will be held legally liable for not following recommendations. I will hold this administration to the pledge that this will be local decision in the end and there will be no coercion or loss of funds for deciding what is best for their communities.”
Senator Mastriano is sponsoring a plan to allow parents and legal guardians to “opt out” their children from having to comply with a school’s mask mandate. The bill would mandate all school districts to develop and abide by a form that will allow parents or legal guardians to sign off on “opting out” their child from a mask mandate.
“The right to make health and educational decisions that are best suited for their children best lies with the parents and legal guardians,” Senator Mastriano said. “This bill empowers them to do that.”
CONTACT: Josh Herman