(HARRISBURG) – Today, Governor Wolf announced that he will be requiring all school students, teachers, and staff across Pennsylvania to wear masks, citing his authority to do so under the Disease Control & Prevention Act. This announcement comes after repeated statements by both the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Alison Beam, and the Governor himself that they would not force a mask mandate on Pennsylvania schools. In response to this policy reversal, State Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) issued the following statement:
“It is incredibly frustrating that Governor Wolf has announced that he will, in fact, do exactly what he said he wouldn’t. It erodes the public’s already thinning trust in government when officials say they’ll do one thing and then turn around and do the exact opposite.
“As a strong proponent of local decision-making since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have consistently stated that school districts and locally elected officials are in the best position to make important policy decisions based on the unique needs of the communities they serve.
“School districts across the Commonwealth have spent the last month evaluating local COVID-19 data, monitoring the impact it has on their communities, and listening to feedback from parents and families, all to eventually arrive at a policy decision that they felt best suited the health, safety, and academic needs of their district. Governor Wolf’s unilateral announcement today undercuts all of this thoughtful consideration by forcing a one-size-fits all policy on every school district in Pennsylvania, regardless of the unique circumstances and needs of each district.
“Data from the Governor’s own Department of Heath demonstrates how diverse Pennsylvania really is, particularly when it comes to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in each community. Looking at the vast differences in case data across the state, it is difficult to understand why anyone would think that the most appropriate policy solution is to force every community to follow the same mandate, without regard for vaccination rates, current caseload, or other relevant local data.
“I trust local school districts to make appropriate decisions that are in the best interest of their students, teachers, and staff. Governor Wolf should too.”
Aument is concerned about the way that Governor Wolf has abused his authority under the Disease Control & Prevention Act, and as such, he is consulting with his colleagues in the Senate on the prospects of amending the Act to ensure that local control and flexibility is preserved in this and future pandemics.
Additionally, Aument recently announced that he would soon introduce legislation that will utilize a universal fund to give families the flexibility to send their child to a school with COVID-19 policies that best meet their child’s health, safety, and academic needs. As a strong supporter of both school choice for families and local decision making throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Aument views this proposal as a more reasonable alternative to the Governor’s heavy-handed mask mandate.
Screenshot of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard case data by county from August 31, 2021.
Screenshot of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard case data by zip code from August 31, 2021.
CONTACT: Stephanie Applegate (717) 787-4420