A statement from KY 120 United AFT on HB 51, the bill outlawing mask mandates in any school setting or on property belonging to any post-secondary institution.
Once again, the Kentucky majority legislature has gone against its own ideology and talking points by filing and entertaining House Bill 51 – a bill that would ban local districts from setting mask mandates based on the number of COVID cases in their towns, while we navigate through a global pandemic.
We won’t discuss science, the number of districts who have had to abruptly reverse their “mask optional” plans thanks to the surge with omicron, or that private schools have required masks throughout the past two years. Those things don’t matter to the KY GOP. What does matter is feeding red meat to the base and destroying the community trust in public education. What does matter is making teachers the enemy.
Long gone are the days of “one size doesn’t always fit all” and “local control is the best control.” The reversal of stances and policy based on these core GOP beliefs is whiplash inducing. Local control is best when it comes to requiring public school employee raises, but not good enough when it comes to making public health decisions for all kids and staff. Local control was best when it came to overturning Governor Beshear’s statewide mask mandate, but not now. Now, state electeds want to strip that authority at our most basic level of governance. Tyranny, indeed.
This session we have learned the legislative branch wants full control, from the local level and beyond. They want total power. As citizens of the Commonwealth, we must ask ourselves, what is the cost? Who is next? Today school boards, tomorrow county magistrates, county judge-executives. No one is immune from the power grab. Make no mistake, we are on the road to authoritarianism, where one state body of government dictates, bans, and outlaws anything they see fit. Will we see bans on keeping peanut butter and latex balloons out of classrooms next?
For this reason, we oppose House Bill 51 and the inconsistent policy and reasoning behind bills flying through committees in Frankfort. We call on the majority party leadership to settle on their messaging. To LEAD instead of being led. To be honest in their reasoning. Public schools are not for one kid, but for ALL kids. It is our moral obligation to protect the most medically fragile of our students and our immunocompromised teachers and staff during a deadly pandemic, and we will.
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