RELEASE: Kelly twice doubles down on school lockdowns in same week she’s endorsed by unions that pushed them

TOPEKA – (September 13, 2022) – Governor Laura Kelly spent last week repeatedly doubling down on her school lockdowns while also receiving the endorsement of big-money, pro-lockdown teachers unions that have bankrolled her political campaigns for years. 

Kelly announced the endorsement of several teachers unions on Wednesday before attending the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Candidate Conversations event in Olathe that night, where she said she makes “absolutely no apologies” for locking Kansas kids out of schools. Then, at Saturday’s Kansas State Fair debate in Hutchinson, Kelly repeated the line about making no apologies to Kansas parents and students for her lockdowns. 

“These endorsements come as no surprise as these pro-lockdown groups bankroll Laura Kelly’s campaigns,” Schmidt said. “Long after the experts told us we could safely open schools, Governor Kelly instead chose the extreme demands of her political bosses over Kansas kids.”

The National Education Association’s state affiliate has donated the maximum amount allowed under state law to Laura Kelly’s campaign accounts since she began running for office in 2004. The American Federation of Teachers, the union run by far-left lockdown enthusiast Randi Weingarten, has also donated the maximum allowed to her campaign over multiple election cycles.

AFT’s Weingarten said in July 2020 that “there’s no way that you’re going to have full-time schools for all kids and all the teachers the way we used to have it” and pushed for schools to remain closed into the fall of 2020. NEA’s Becky Pringle said in August 2020 “it is unacceptable to open even one unsafe school” despite the fact the American Academy of Pediatrics was encouraging schools to reopen in the fall.

Kelly unsurprisingly followed the unions’ orders and attempted to extend her statewide school lockdowns into a second academic year. Thankfully, she was blocked by the Kansas State Board of Education. Board members rebuked Kelly’s one-size-fits-all solution as “problematic” and said Kelly should be “listening to the doctors, not the politicians” when making decisions about reopening. Kelly was the first governor in America to shut down schools across the state for the remaining school year in March 2020. 

Kelly later tried to keep extending statewide mask mandates, including in schools, until the Legislature stopped her. 

In the wake of Kelly’s school closures, student achievement and mental health outcomes have suffered. More than 34 percent of Kansas students are testing at the lowest possible level in math and 30 percent in reading. A shocking 32 percent of Kansas teens responded they have seriously considered suicide, a record-high number and nearly 40 percent increase since 2015.

Despite Kelly calling herself the “education governor,” about 15,000 students have left public schools since 2019 after years of static enrollment, and Kansas faces its worst teacher shortage in state history.

Schmidt has pledged that as governor he will not lock kids out of school. Kelly has not given Kansans the same commitment.

In addition to commitments to constitutionally fund schools and keep students in the classroom, Schmidt has already proposed a comprehensive plan to address school safety that includes providing more mental-health professionals for schools by continuing to expand the existing Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) program until it is available to all school districts.