Home Politics House Republican lawmakers: Lack of DOH data justifying Wolf’s PIAA recommendation

House Republican lawmakers: Lack of DOH data justifying Wolf’s PIAA recommendation

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has no supporting data on hand to justify its recommendation that interscholastic and club sports be canceled until January 2021

In response to a Right to Know Law request filed by Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) after Gov. Tom Wolf’s “strong recommendation” that interscholastic and club sports be canceled until January 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said it has no supporting data to justify its recommendation. Grove’s request for the data was forwarded to the Office of the Governor.

“The fact that data was not used to make the recommendation by the governor to cancel sports this upcoming semester begs the question about what other policies from the governor were made without any data or science to support them? This is exactly why it was so important for Act 77 to become law and likely why the governor strongly opposed and wanted to veto the measure,” Grove said. “Pennsylvanians deserve to know the data and science being used to create policies that impact the lives of millions of residents. They shouldn’t be forced to blindly follow a leader who appears to create policy unilaterally on a whim.”

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) argued the lack of data and justification shows why already-introduced legislation is necessary.

“From the beginning of this pandemic, the Wolf administration has been making decisions that impact the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Pennsylvanians without involving the people’s representatives in the legislature and without concern for the unintended consequences of wide-ranging and inconsistent orders, guidance and recommendations. Thanks to the strong work of Rep. Grove, we now know that the administration has made the unilateral decision to strongly recommend the cancelation of fall sports without the Department of Health having any corresponding data to justify their decision,” said Benninghoff.

“The legislation being offered by Representative Reese and Representative Topper will ensure that these decisions can truly be made on the local level. I thank Chairman Sonney for agreeing to bring these bills up for a vote to ensure they can be presented to the caucus swiftly upon our return. The House Republican Caucus stands united in standing up for the safety of all Pennsylvanians as we learn to live with this virus.”

Chairman of the House Education Committee Curt Sonney (R-Erie) noted the Reese and Topper bills will be considered on Thursday.

“As chairman of the House Education Committee, I have held several hearings where we have heard from stakeholders and school districts on the importance of reopening schools for our students this fall,” said Sonney. “Sports and extracurricular activities are a huge part of every student’s academic career and are vital for their mental and social development. Postponing fall sports for our students will create more harm than good. Students need to be in school and be involved in school activities. That’s why we are acting quickly to get these bills moved through committee.”

Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland), a member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Oversight Committee, said his legislation to give local control over whether to start fall sports is important to ensure those wishing to do so can return to sports safely.

“The governor’s announcement to stop all high school sports until January 1 came as a complete shock to students, parents and even PIAA officials,” said Reese. “Study after study shows that students who are involved in sports and extracurricular activities thrive better in the classroom and develop crucial life skills like self-discipline, leadership and teamwork. Taking fall sports away from our students means taking away the opportunity for them to hone and develop these skills. My legislation would simply allow the local school districts to make decisions regarding sports – not the legislature and not the governor. It’s about giving power to the schools to make the best decision for their students and communities.”

Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), who has introduced legislation to empower parents of students and student athletes to have their children repeat a year of school should they feel they missed an important athletic or educational opportunity, underscored the lack of DOH data as a reason for his legislation.

“Students must be given opportunities to fulfill their dreams and pursue their passions. House Bill 2788 would give students and families the option to continue a child’s academic and extracurricular activities for an additional year should those options not be available for the upcoming school year,” Topper said. “In light of the revelation that no data was used by the governor in regards to his recommendation to cancel school sports, it would seem as though there is no logical reason that our kids shouldn’t be afforded these opportunities.”

Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Pike/Wayne), who is also in the PIAA Oversight Committee, noted he is proud to support Reps. Reese and Topper in their legislation.

“Our local community leaders were tasked with the challenge of creating a school safety plan to allow for fall sports engagements and in-class learning, and they deserve the right to be heard,” said Peifer. “Reps. Jesse Topper and Mike Reese address the need for fall sports and activities decisions to fall under the power of our local school districts through legislation that they introduced last week. I am proud to be a co-sponsor for these much needed bills and firmly believe that these specific decisions are best made at the local level where our school leaders can best dictate what would work best for their students, staff and community.”

Click here for the full Right to Know response.

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