Iowa Republicans stand firm against mask mandates in schools

Mask mandates at Iowa schools are banned under a new state law. (Stock photo/Getty Images)

By Katie Akin, Iowa Capital Dispatch 

The Republican governor of Arkansas is walking back a prohibition on mask requirements this week, but Iowa Republicans said Wednesday they’re sticking by their law to forbid schools and local governments from imposing mask mandates.

“The governor is proud of the bill she signed,” Gov. Kim Reynolds’s spokesperson Pat Garrett wrote in an email. “[She] believes these decisions are best left up to parents.”

Reynolds signed House File 847 into law in late May, immediately overturning mask requirements in schools for the final weeks of the school year. Leaders of Iowa’s House and Senate concurred that they do not plan to change the law to allow mask mandates as back-to-school approaches and the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads. 

“Senate Republicans have consistently implemented policies to give parents more control over their children’s education, including whether or not their child wears a mask,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver wrote. “I do not anticipate any changes to that law.”

Arkansas governor reverses course for young children

The Arkansas legislature in April passed a law to prohibit state agencies and local governments and officials from requiring masks. 

But on Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson walked back his earlier commitment to the bill. He said that he regretted signing it into law and called legislators back for an “extraordinary session,” asking them to create an exception for local entities to require masks for children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated.


“Some argue it should be up to the parents to decide for the children. For that reason, school boards will have many options after listening to the parents,” Hutchinson said in a news release. “The goal is to be safe and to keep schools open. Local flexibility will help get us there.”

Hutchinson cited specific concerns with the delta variant of COVID-19 and increasing numbers of Arkansas children in the hospital. 


Other states double down against masks

Iowa is one of several Republican-controlled states to prohibit local mask requirements. In the past week, the governors of Texas and Florida issued executive orders to forbid local entities from requiring masks. 

“[Texans] have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a news release.


President Joe Biden on Tuesday condemned the executive orders, telling the Texas and Florida governors to “get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.”

Some school districts in other states have elected to require masks despite the law. Tampa news station WFLA reported that two Florida school districts voted Tuesday to require masks, potentially putting their state funding at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated, wear masks indoors where there is “high” or “substantial” spread of the virus.

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