Opinion: Governor tramples local school control to gain political mileage

On Wednesday, Kemp announced he will issue an executive order that would prevent public schools from requiring students, teachers and staff wear masks. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/TNS)
On Wednesday, Kemp announced he will issue an executive order that would prevent public schools from requiring students, teachers and staff wear masks. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Brian Kemp goes after masks and vaccine requirements and critical race theory

Sometimes, it’s better when politicians ignore schools. In the last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stepped all over local control of public schools, something he reveres when it suits him and runs roughshod over when it doesn’t.

On Wednesday, Kemp announced he will issue an executive order that would prevent public schools from requiring that students, teachers and staff wear masks. On Tuesday, he signed an executive order forbidding state government including public schools and colleges from requiring proof of vaccination against the coronavirus.

The 22-page executive order signed today by Kemp specifies that public schools cannot use an ongoing state of emergency to require students or staffers to wear masks. However, it fell short of an outright ban on mask requirements, which could have met with legal challenges the governor may not have won.

A week earlier, Kemp jumped feet first into the manufactured hysteria over critical race theory, urging the state Board of Education to take “immediate steps to ensure that Critical Race Theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards and curriculum.” Critical race theory is a complex legal framework that is not being taught in K-12 schools despite the contortions of extremists to find it in any mention of equity and inclusion.

In explaining his aversion to mask mandates, Kemp said teachers had the opportunity to be vaccinated, downplaying the fact that children have not. Many alarmed commenters on AJC Get Schooled Facebook pointed this out, including a teacher who said, “So I teach fifth grade...there are no vaccines for that age group, so we should just let them share germs and send that home to their families and or immune-compromised people who may not be able to get the vaccine? Gosh, I love the South.” At this point, 3,310,889 Georgians, 32% of the state, have been fully vaccinated, according to state Department of Health data.

Under Kemp’s order, K-12 schools and public universities cannot require vaccinations for students or staffers. His order presents challenges to Georgia colleges that are supposed to be returning to normal, which means full dorms. Many Georgia private colleges have already announced they will mandate vaccinates to safeguard their campuses, including Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College and Agnes Scott College.

“Our goal is a fully vaccinated campus community to protect against the spread of COVID-19 and its more contagious variants, which have demonstrated long-term health effects even after mild illness, and the propensity to lead to more serious disease, including in young people,” said Agnes Scott President Leocadia I. Zak.

Somewhere, a band of political operatives in a back room or a private Facebook page decreed the next battleground for America’s culture wars will be our classrooms, hence the fabricated campaign against trans girls playing high school sports and now the orchestrated outrage over diversity and equity in our schools. There was not a single case in Georgia relevant to the proposed “Save Girls Sports Act,” which would define gender as an athlete’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth. Yet, several hearings were dedicated to the bill, which did not pass the Legislature this year but will likely return next.

Efforts in Georgia to rid schools of imaginary critical race theory curriculums and pass unnecessary “Save Girls Sports” laws ought to be called by their real name, “Save the GOP Majority.” These campaigns targeting schools are politically driven, deliberately divisive and totally baseless.

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News