Aug 20, 2021 - COVID

Iowa drives power struggle over school mask mandates

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds wears a mask while listening during a briefing.

Gov. Kim Reynolds listens during an Iowa disaster recovery briefing on Aug. 18, 2020. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' announcement she's upholding a ban preventing schools from mandating masks, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, is driving a power struggle between local, state and federal leaders.

State of play: Iowa is one of eight states to ban schools from mandating masks after Reynolds signed the Republican-backed law in May.

Driving the news: President Biden on Wednesday said he may direct the U.S. Department of Education to launch civil rights investigations into states that ban mask mandates. A letter was sent to Reynolds, saying the law interferes with a safe return to school, Politico reports.

  • Following Biden's announcement, Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Tom Ahart said he supports defying Reynolds' orders if the school board approves a mask mandate, the Register reports.
  • Reynolds doubled down on her stance Thursday, saying she's preserving "fundamental rights and liberties."

What's ahead: DMPS officials are waiting to see what the Biden administration will do next, said spokesperson Phil Roeder.

  • The next school board meeting is Sept. 7, but they may choose to meet earlier "as the situation gets more dire," Roeder said.
  • School starts Aug. 25.

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