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School boards oversee education, not public health

I agree with the area school superintendents who argued in their Sept. 21 Guest Commentary that local school boards should determine education policy and practice.

When I was on the Urbana school board, I also served on State Rep. Carol Ammons’ Education Community Advisory Panel, where community members provided input on proposed education-related legislation. During my years on the school board, I witnessed hundreds of education bills that proposed changing education policy and curriculum. My response to these unfunded education mandates was consistent: Local school districts and education professionals should make decisions about education policy and practice.

I disagree with the superintendents, however, when they argue that school boards should determine public-health policy. School boards are elected to oversee matters of education, not public health. The superintendents are incorrect when they say the science about how to contain COVID-19 has been inconsistent. The medical community has been quite clear that vaccines and masks prevent COVID-19 spread. And the data substantiates this: Areas with the lowest vaccination rates are experiencing the greatest number of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

COVID-19 does not recognize school district boundaries. Individual communities and school districts that ignore COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as getting vaccinated and wearing masks, put others at risk.

It is appropriate for school districts to exercise local control in matters of education. It is incumbent upon them to look to medical expertise, however, in matters of public health. We will not get beyond this pandemic if they fail to do so.

PEGGY PATTEN

Urbana

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