Derek Schmidt weighed in last week that Kansas school boards could likely sidestep Gov. Laura Kelly’s request that teachers, staff and students wear face masks in an effort to ward off the spread of COVID-19 when school resumes in the next month or two.

Schmidt, Kansas Attorney General, said the state constitution gives school districts “home rule,” to manage their own affairs and thought the face mask order would fall under such parameters. 

Gov. Kelly rebutted Schmidt’s assertion, saying her executive powers include protecting school districts and that the mandate was specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Legalities aside, health experts say wearing a face mask goes a long ways in preventing the spread of the virus. 

Kansas just experienced its second-to-worst week of confirmed coronavirus cases. With more than 25,000 confirmed cases, we are now averaging 315 new diagnoses a day. One month ago, the daily average was 80.

The more disturbing question is not whether school districts can legally opt out of the face mask mandate, but why Schmidt and Republican leaders are pursuing this.

Are they purposefully trying to undermine the public’s health by urging school districts to opt out of the mandate?

Face masks are an effective tool in combating a deadly virus.

Why jeopardize that?

Because, unfortunately, this pandemic has become outrageously political in Topeka.

Ultra-conservative Republicans like Schmidt and House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins view the coronavirus as a political threat and will, obviously, go to any means to discredit the leadership of Gov. Kelly — even if it means endangering the health of the 500,000 students who attend Kansas public schools as well  as thousands of teachers and staff members.

Putting the public, not politics, first is what makes a good leader.

For most, that’s not a high bar. For others, their quest for power has left them blinded.

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