ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp’s school mask bill is expected to get quick action in the legislature this week, as the governor seeks to stop local school systems from requiring masks for children.
Kemp’s bill strikes at an issue that has gnawed at many conservatives for two years. It also strikes at the time-honored conservative concept of local control.
"As you know, I’ve been a local control governor," Kemp told reporters Monday as he announced the mask bill.
A few weeks after he became governor, Kemp vetoed the recess bill, which required recess for elementary schoolchildren, and passed the legislature overwhelmingly.
When Kemp vetoed it he wrote “I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education.” However, now Kemp aims to strip school systems of the ability to require masks in schools.
"This is something I’ve been very patient on but it’s gone on way too long," Kemp said, criticizing school systems that have continued to require masks in classrooms per CDC guidelines.
"It is an election year," observed state Rep. Demetrious Douglas (D-Stockbridge), who wrote the recess bill. "When they don’t want to do something, they say, 'well, it’s about local control.'"
This year, Republicans are trying to eliminate local control in schools with bills that would:
However, state Rep. Chris Erwin (R-Homer), a former school superintendent and a fan of local control in schools, explained he supports Kemp’s bill to eliminate mask requirements in schools.
"Well, I don’t think you eliminate it. I think you just drove it all the way down to the parent level," he said on Tuesday. "The local control goes all the way to the parents then and lets them make that decision for their own children."
That's Kemp’s argument as well. And in this election year, the mask bill will likely to pass through the GOP-led legislature like toothpaste from a tube.
If passed, Gov. Kemp's bill would expire in June of 2023.