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Tennessee Lt. Governor says he favors ‘school choice’ on mask mandates

Legislative Session Tennessee
Posted at 1:39 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 14:39:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — One day after House Speaker Cameron Sexton threatened to seek a special session if school districts opt to require masks amid the Delta variant spread, Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally said he favors “school choice” on the matter, "pandemic or no pandemic."

McNally released a statement on Tuesday, saying in part that while he’s against a statewide mask mandate, he trusts “locally elected school boards to do what is necessary to keep their students healthy and their doors open.”

“While I would have to see the specific proposal, I have always been in favor of school choice, pandemic or no pandemic,” McNally added in part.

READ HIS FULL STATEMENT:

“I am tremendously glad that Governor Lee and my colleagues in the General Assembly had the foresight to address learning loss as a result of the pandemic. Most students learn best in the classroom. We have always suspected it and now we know it for certain. School systems do not currently have the same authorization to go virtual as they did last year and I believe that is a good thing. While I am firmly against a statewide mask mandate, I trust locally elected school boards to do what is necessary to keep their students healthy and their doors open. While I would have to see the specific proposal, I have always been in favor of school choice, pandemic or no pandemic.”

McNally’s statement comes after Sexton said he would ask Gov. Bill Lee to call a special session if school districts require masks or close.

Sexton's remarks came Monday during a news conference about test scores with Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and shortly after the Metro Nashville Board of Education announced it would hold a special meeting this week to discuss its COVID protocols, including face masks.

“Students need and must be in in-person learning in the classrooms," Sexton, R-Crossville, told reporters.

He continued, “I sure hope that school systems do not require a mask mandate for those students. And if they do, I’m going to ask the Governor for a special session."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Sexton if school systems should be punished if they want to protect children from the risk of COVID.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says face masks are the best hope for keeping kids in the classroom during the coming year, especially with the more infectious delta variant now sweeping the country.

In addition, the CDC has endorsed the continued use of face masks in areas like Tennessee with high rates of spread.

Sexton insisted politicians are in a better position to make those kinds of decisions.

"We listen to healthcare people," he continued. "You can listen to the economists. But, at the end of the day, we're elected and we make the decision that we feel are best based on the information we have."

READ MORE: Tennessee House Speaker threatens special session if school districts mandate masks