The Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), seeking to block her requirement for at least 50 percent of teaching to occur in person within school buildings throughout the state.
The governor’s mandate, the union said, undercuts the plans of local school districts to begin the academic year safely with only virtual learning.
We agree with @IowaSEA and their president Mike Beranek: The health and safety of our students, educators, and families must come first.
This lawsuit is about ensuring Iowa school districts have the power to make decisions that relate to the well-being of their own communities. pic.twitter.com/1E4KASwfUD
— NEA (@NEAToday) August 19, 2020
ISEA President Mike Beranek said the union is asking the court to “immediately declare local school districts, not the governor, have the authority to make local decisions affecting the health and safety of their schools,” reported the Des Moines Register.
Iowa City’s school board joined ISEA’s lawsuit against the governor, though it also decided the district would comply with the 50 percent in-person instruction mandate.
Brady Shutt, president of the Iowa City Education Association, an ISEA affiliate, said, according to the Register:
We strongly believe the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the critically important right and need of local authorities and locally elected officials like our school boards to do what is right for the health and safety of their community. Late in the game proclamations and guidance like we have seen from the state of Iowa have the effect of imposing a one size fits all approach at the very moments when local decision-making should be protected and prioritized.
The state education agency released a directive in August that a school district must have a 20 percent average COVID-19 positivity rate among students who have been tested to be able to apply for a waiver to close school common areas or cancel school events, including sports, and be eligible for remote learning, explained the Washington Times.
The union states the 20 percent standard is too high and is pushing for a positivity rate of five percent, as recommended by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).
Currently, no Iowa counties are reaching the 20 percent average threshold, though Plymouth County has met a daily positivity rate of over 35 percent.
Reynolds, however, has been an avid proponent of a return to in-person learning.
During the summer, the governor signed into law a measure that states, “a brick-and-mortar school district or accredited nonpublic school shall not take action to provide instruction primarily through remote-learning opportunities” unless authorized by the governor during a public health disaster.
An affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), the ISEA represents about 30,000 teachers.