(The Center Square) – The latest conversation about getting kids back to in-person classes in Wisconsin devolved into a back-and-forth among lawmakers over face masks and CDC recommendations.
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Falls, ended Thursday’s Joint Committee on Education hearing by once again asking the state’s Department of Public Instruction to help local schools fully reopen in the fall and get kids back into classrooms.
“I wish the DPI would be more aggressive about asking school districts to get back in school,” Darling said at the hearing. “I am really concerned about Milwaukee Public School’s action not to get back into the classroom.”
Darling said there’s still no timeline to bring all MPS students. Some kids will return to in-person classes next week. It’ll be the first time in over a year that they will be in school.
Democrats at the hearing pounced at Darling’s comments, accusing her of spreading misinformation and ignoring the coronavirus outbreak.
“As much as some folks might want to put their head in the sand, or go out in public and be in a room with a bunch of people without a mask and pretend there isn’t a pandemic, it is important that teachers are taking care of our kids, and schools are taking care of our kids. Making sure that everyone is doing their part not to spread this deadly disease,” Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee said.
Larson then insisted the CDC says all students should wear masks when they return to school.
Darling said yes, that’s true. But she added her focus is getting kids back into schools.
“The CDC has [said] kids can go back to school at this point,” Darling explained, citing the Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol have been pushing for students to return to in-person classes for months, and this week pushed State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor for a return-to-school plan. She didn’t provide one.
Darling only added fuel to the Democrat’s anger Thursday when she suggested part of the delay to get back to class is a ploy from the state’s teachers’ unions.
“Some teachers seem to be holding-up for negotiations of different things,” Darling said. “And I just don’t think that’s fair to our kids.”
Darling once again suggested DPI should withhold state funding from schools that do not fully open in the fall.