Editorial: Kemp appears to believe in local control only when it suits his purpose

Imagine our surprise when we learned that Gov. Brian Kemp said on Monday that it is up to local school districts and superintendents to decide whether to require students to wear masks during in-person instruction because of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

"We've given the responsibility to the schools and to the local superintendent," Kemp said during a press conference with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams at the launch of a new COVID-19 testing site at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. "Like most things in education, I'm a firm believer that the local governments know their school better than the state government does. We've been handling things that way for a long time."

But Kemp, a Republican, does not extend that same logic, that local officials know better how to run their communities than the state does -- a hallmark of Republican candidates for years and years -- to the cities in the state.

This is hypocrisy at its best, or worst.

In an executive order in July, Kemp suspended "any local laws or rules that are more restrictive than his order, including local rules or ordinances requiring people to wear masks, even on public property or in public buildings," according to The Associated Press.

He also brought a lawsuit that sought to block Atlanta's mayor from ordering people to wear masks in public. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says because of COVID-19 that "Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don't live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain," with some few exceptions.

"You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick," the CDC notes. "The mask is meant to protect other people in case you are infected."

If Kemp truly believes that local education officials know their school better than the state government does, then he is being untrue to himself in fighting local municipal officials who surely know their communities better than he does. Or is he merely playing a political game where he achieves his desired objective -- no mask mandates -- however he can achieve it.

Local control here, state action -- bullying -- there.

The citizens of this state are not that gullible. They know a double standard when they see it. It is on display here.

Governor, you can and must do better.

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