ANNAPOLIS, Md. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Maryland's governor is overruling a county health official's ban on private schools reopening in the fall.
In response to a Montgomery County health official's directive that private schools cannot open with in-person instruction, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order Monday saying the decision about in-person instruction is up to individual private schools. His order pushed back against Chief of Public Health Services Dr. Travis Gayles' ban.
"The blanket closure-mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer," Hogan declared.
Hogan's order reinforces his longstanding position that local schools and school systems are the proper authorities to determine how and when to reopen. The emergency order is an amendment to Hogan's initial order, issued in April, which gave county health officials the authority to close any individual facility operating in a fashion that exacerbates the spread of the virus.
Gayle responded to the governor's order by claiming science was on his side.
"It doesn't matter if we see the governor's tweet or the governor's statement because it doesn't change the fact that in the state of Maryland, cases are increasing significantly," asserted Gayle.
According to the state's website, cases of the Wuhan virus decreased significantly between July 27 and Aug. 3. The state's website, however, fails to make information about the current rate of deaths in the state readily available.
Maryland's leading newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, pitched the governor's actions differently, writing that Hogan "stripped local governments of their authority to prohibit schools from opening amid the coronavirus pandemic."
Media outlets are also trying to make hay of the fact that President Trump's son, 14-year-old Barron, is enrolled in a Montgomery County private school. The implication is that Hogan is a Trump puppet doing his party's leader a favor and backing the President's expressed preference that schools reopen for in-person instruction.
Like President Trump, Hogan is an advocate for local decisions and flexibility. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argued against having a national plan for reopening schools.
"You know, there's not a national superintendent, nor should there be; therefore, there's not a national plan for reopening," DeVos said while traveling in North Carolina with Vice President Mike Pence.
During the same trip, she visited Thales Academy, a private school in North Carolina, where she expressed praise for its leadership.
"Thales is a great example more schools could emulate,” DeVos enthused. "You didn't wait for guidance from the Department of Education. You didn't ask for permission. Your families wanted kids back in school, you wanted kids back in school, teachers wanted to be back in school, so you figured out ways to do it, or do it safely."
A similar situation popped up in Texas last month when Attorney General Ken Paxton told the state's religious schools they were exempt from virus restrictions. He specifically took on restrictions imposed by local health officials.
"Local public health orders attempting to restrict the provision of religious instruction through religious private schools violate the United States and Texas Constitutions and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act," confirmed Paxton.
With few exceptions, however, Catholic institutions across Texas have voluntarily avoided reopening their schools.
The debate continues to rage over when to reopen schools. The same newspaper complaining about health officials supposedly being stripped of their authority is also reporting on experts who think schools should reopen.
In mid-July, a headline from The Baltimore Sun proclaimed, "Many public health experts say children should return to school in the fall, particularly in states like Maryland."