The fight between President Joe Biden and governors who refuse to cooperate with his coronavirus policies heated up this week when the U.S. Department of Education told Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) it supports local school districts imposing mask mandates.
In May of this year, Gov. Abbott defied the Biden administration when he signed an executive order “prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask-wearing.” As the new school year approaches, local leaders in concert with Texas media outlets and the Biden administration have strongly opposed Abbott’s order. In a letter addressed to Gov. Abbott this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel A. Cardona stated that the governor’s order will prevent local districts from protecting minors against the coronavirus:
Texas’s recent actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts these goals at risk and may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law.
The CDC, as well as the Biden administration, has called for mask requirements in schools this coming fall since only children 12 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. KXAN profiled some of the measures that local leaders have taken in defiance of Abbott:
In Texas’ Capitol, the City of Austin ruled this week to require face masks for residents in county buildings and public schools, with Travis County Judge Andy Brown explaining the orders were signed in order to “protect countless lives and keep us safe.” Under the order, students, staff and visitors over the age of two would be required to wear face coverings while on school property during Stages 3-5 of COVID-19-risk in the area.
Many of Texas’ other biggest school districts have already implemented their own mask requirements, including Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston ISDs. On Tuesday, Abbott responded in part: “Violating the Governor’s orders — and violating parental rights — is not the way to do it.”
As several district judges seek to impose restrictions on the governor’s order, he will likely have to argue his ban before the Texas Supreme Court.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has also implemented his own mask mandate ban, prompting President Biden to say this week that he would be “checking” to see if his administration could intervene on the federal level.
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