Civics: Mandates vs “laws”

I recently saw a sign prominently posted in a Madison restaurant that said: “Wear a Mask, it’s the law”.

This is a teaching moment.

The current Dane County Madison Public Health mask requirement is a mandate, not (yet) a law. The status of said mask requirement is the subject of law fare and activism.

Some background:

a. President Obama’s use of executive orders vs legislation, satirized by SNL:

b. Rule making

Wisconsin’s long term, disastrous K-12 reading results:

I’ve become quite familiar with this issue via our reading advocacy over the years. Legislation to address Wisconsin’s dramatic K-12 reading decline (our students now trail Mississippi, a state that spends less and has fewer teachers per student) was passed in 2011/2012, following Massachusett’s best in the US K-12 teacher content knowledge requirements.

Fast forward a few years: DPI Superintendent and now Governor Evers begins to waive that requirement. In fact, he did so more than 6000 times (teacher mulligans).

Alexander Shur:

“This case is not about what restrictions are appropriate during the ongoing COVID pandemic, which is admittedly serious,” the lawsuit states. “It is about who decides and how.”

c. Dane County Madison Public Health (vs Milwaukee and elsewhere):

“In particular, WILL argued the new restrictions were not voted on by the Dane County Board.

Milwaukee’s common council is debating a mandate (which, as far as I can tell, is the way things are to be done, via state statutes other than a very short term emergency) (update: passed).

But, their administrators have not imposed a mandate outside of an elected official vote.

My own view? If the non elected administrators are correct, why not vote on it (City Council and the County Board, among others).

All that being said, this is a wonderful opportunity to share a bit with student customers and encourage them to consider these issues. Should we have mandates? Should elected officials have to vote on things that reduce our rights? How have the different approaches worked historically?

This is an excellent book, that covers much of the same ground: The Great Influenza.