Gov. Wolf’s request to mandate masks in school facing Republican roadblock

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Wolf wants masking to be mandatory in Pennsylvania schools. That can’t happen without the support of the Republican-controlled legislature.

On Wednesday he sent a letter to state Republican leaders, asking them to have lawmakers work on a bill to require masks in schools and child care centers.

“It is clear that action is needed to ensure children are safe as they return to school,” Wolf wrote. “The science is clear that masks reduce virus transmission and that they, along with our vaccination efforts, give us the best chance to keep our classrooms and child care centers open instead of having them shut down due to COVID infections among Pennsylvania’s children.”

The spokesman for PA House Republicans, Jason Gottesman says Republican lawmakers don’t want to pass a statewide masking mandate. “The majority of our members are not in favor of any sort of mask mandate,” Gottesman said.

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President of the PA State Education Association Rich Askey says he would like to see a mask mandate happen. “I do know the science is telling us that they are safer if we mask up,” Askey said.

He believes a mask requirement could keep kids in classrooms.

“We don’t want another year of closing down schools,” Askey said. “We don’t want times when children have to be quarantined and their learning stops. They have suffered long enough with this pandemic. It is time for us to be responsible adults and do what’s right for our children.”

Lawmakers on the right want to keep the choice in the hands of individual school boards.

“People should be making these decisions at the local level, the local school district level, and again at the local family level. And again, just because there’s not a mask mandate doesn’t mean that people don’t have the option of wearing masks to school,” Gottesman said.

Askey argues that outside pressure is keeping boards from making the right choice.

“It’s not being done because of political pressure, so now it’s time for the legislative leaders and the governor to step up and take some action on this,” Askey said.

For now, though, it doesn’t seem likely the governor will get what he’s asking for.

“There’s more constructive things we can work on together than being dictated to him about how we should legislate,” Gottesman said.

Of the 474 school districts that have sent their safety plans to the state, only 59 are requiring masks.

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