Schmidt condemns Kelly’s disruption of in-person instruction early in COVID-19 pandemic

GOP nominee for governor says mandate may let children fall through cracks

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — Republican governor candidate Derek Schmidt toured a Wichita high school degree completion program to place emphasis on ramifications of Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision in March 2020 to close Kansas public school buildings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schmidt, who also met with parents Monday during the campaign swing, said it was “damaging” for the Democratic governor to have become the nation’s first chief executive to shift instruction to an online format in early stages of a pandemic. COVID-19 has contributed to the death of 8,958 Kansans.

“It was an unnecessarily overaggressive approach,” Schmidt said. “In hindsight, it was not justified at the time and yet here we are all this time later trying to figure out how to remedy the damage.”

Schmidt said enrollment in Kansas public schools was down about 14,000 students more than two years after COVID-19 swept the nation. He raised concern some of those students slipped through cracks in the education system. He said a portion were unaccounted for, but offered no insight into how private schools, homeschooling or movement to other states might explain absence of students from public schools.

Kansas public schools have returned to normal operations under direction of the Kansas Board of Education. The state Department of Education reported 518,800 students attended public schools in Kansas during 2019-2020. That dropped to 502,400 in 2020-2021, due to the pandemic. In 2021-2022, enrollment was 12,400 below the pre-pandemic level. The 2022-2023 enrollment reports have yet to be compiled by the state.

“As governor,” Schmidt said, “I pledge I will never again lock our children out of their schools, and I hope that Governor Kelly will take that same pledge. I think our families and our kids deserve to know they don’t need to worry about a repeat of this terrible error.”

‘World-class education’

Kelly was elected governor in 2018 based in part on her advocacy for K-12 public education, including the effort to restore full state funding of school districts.

During her term, the Legislature and Kelly increased the state’s financial investment in education to comply with constitutional requirements affirmed through protracted litigation. Supporters of Kelly’s reelection have expressed fear a Republican governor could jeopardize financial gains by public schools.

“I ran for governor in 2018 because I knew that properly funding our schools was the first step to ensuring our kids receive the world-class education they deserve,” Kelly said.

Kelly issued an executive order March 17, 2020, that recognized the public health emergency of COVID-19. That followed by several days President Donald Trump’s declaration the pandemic was of “sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant” emergency action by all states, tribes, territories and the District of Columbia.

“Kansas’ K-12 schools are the backbone of our communities,” Kelly said at that time. “But they are also opportunities to significantly further the spread of COVID-19. Many schools have already temporarily closed, either voluntarily or as a result of local health departent orders or state-level recommendations.”

She said her executive order outlined a statewide approach offering students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators greater certainty and opportunity for the state and districts to implement alternative instructional programs that didn’t center on in-person teaching.

During the pandemic, Kelly and state lawmakers allocated $15 million for “remote learning” grants used to address needs of students not able to be part of in-person instruction. The state also approved $50 million for “learning recovery” grants, which supplemented other aid to students.

Kelly said during the campaign that Kansas’ world-class education system was part of what has propelled the state’s growing economy.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to uplift Kansas’ public education with the support of our world-class educators,” she said.

Wichita perspectives

In Wichita, Schmidt said he appreciated work of the Acceleration Academy, which formed a partnership with Wichita public schools to provide one-on-one instruction to individuals 14 to 21 years of age who wanted to earn a high school diploma.

Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, also repeated a claim Kelly was to some degree responsible for rising mental health issues of Kansas youth and the exit of Kansas educators from the profession. Both are national trends.

Patty Bledsoe, a family practice physician in Wichita, said during a meeting with Schmidt the closure of school buildings and the disruption of classroom instruction had a negative impact on some students.

“I have seen in my patient population significant increase in anxiety and depression in very, very young students that I don’t think we’ll see the end results on for years to come,” Bledsoe said. “So, are we back to normal? We’re back to what appears to be normal. But I think it’s going to be 10 years before we see the truth of what happened.”

Natalie Ellis, who also spoke to Schmidt about repercussions of the governor’s response to COVID-19, said movement away from regular school classes was detrimental academically, socially and emotionally to students.

“As parents we spoke out for two years about the issues at hand in our school district, but no one listened,” she said. “The data is now proving that lockdowns did way more harm than good. Tests scores are down. Proficiency levels have tanked. And anxiety and depression are through the roof. Kansans need a governor who will listen to and protect parental rights. That’s why I’m voting for Derek Schmidt.”

Kansas Reflector stories,, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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Report outlines how residents can save on health care costs

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., has released a report on how Kansas residents can save on health care costs, due to a federal health care law that passed earlier this month.

Rep. Davids was joined by Molly Gotobed, a Kansas City, Kansas, resident, at Reach Healthcare Foundation to share information that would help residents take advantage of the new provisions.

The new law will help families in the 3rd District save an average of $980 a year if they buy their own insurance and will extend the same savings to eligible families with unaffordable employer-sponsored insurance, according to Rep. Davids.

“Lowering costs for Kansas families continues to be one of my top priorities, and that certainly includes lowering health insurance costs for Kansans,” Rep. Davids said. “The savings I released today in my new report will ensure Kansans can afford their medical coverage without having to sacrifice other everyday expenses like gas, groceries, or education. Above all, many of these benefits will be felt immediately and continue to positively impact our community for years to come.”

“For years, we’ve turned away families offered employer-sponsored coverage even if the plan costs half their paycheck,” said Molly Gotobed, Kansas Assistance Network program director. “Other than families in the Medicaid gap, this was the biggest issue our families faced when trying to get coverage and it just didn’t make sense. Fixing the ‘family glitch’ will literally save lives and I’m so excited to call clients back to share the good news.”

“Lowering the cost of health coverage is good for families, households and local economies,” said Brenda Sharpe, REACH Healthcare Foundation president and CEO. “In a state that still has not expanded Medicaid, we are grateful for policies that offer Kansans some financial relief and an improved opportunity to achieve better health.”

The report identifies savings that are available immediately or starting next year. Key takeaways include:

• For the 31,000 Kansans in the 3rd District who purchase their own insurance, the federal law caps premiums based on income levels, saving an average of $980 a year.

• The savings also apply to Kansans who get their insurance through their employer. Those who currently spend more than 9.6% of their income on employer-based health insurance will soon be able to seek affordable coverage through the exchanges, fixing the “family glitch.”

These savings were included in Davids-supported federal actions, including the Inflation Reduction Act, comprehensive legislation to lower health care and energy costs and reduce the national debt by more than $300 billion. Additional provisions in the law that reduce health care costs include allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs, capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month for Medicare beneficiaries, and capping out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 per year for those using Medicare.

  • Story from Rep. Davids’ office

Salloi signed to new four-year contract

Sporting Kansas City announced today that the club has signed MLS All-Star forward Daniel Salloi to a new four-year contract through 2026.

Salloi, a product of the Sporting Kansas City Academy, has developed into one of the most prolific attackers in club history since signing as a homegrown player in 2016.

The 26-year-old Hungarian international ranks eighth in team history with 37 regular season goals and fifth with 47 goals in all competitions. As Sporting’s all-time leader with seven goals in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and 13 match-winning goals in the regular season, he is one of nine Kansas City players with 70 combined goals (47) and assists (23) across all competitions.

“I feel lucky to be at this club and I am very excited for my future here in Kansas City,” Salloi said. “My professional journey has been so rewarding because we’re an ambitious club with amazing fans. It’s an honor to be a part of this culture and I’m happy to continue pursuing my long-term goals at Sporting KC.”

With 40 career goals in MLS competitions, Salloi has the fifth-most goals among MLS Homegrown Players all-time. In addition, he is one of just four MLS players with at least 22 goals and 11 assists in the regular season since the start of 2021.

Since Salloi signed his first professional contract with Sporting, the club has made five playoff appearances, finished atop the Western Conference standings twice and hoisted the 2017 U.S. Open Cup title after the winger scored the game-winning goal in the final against the New York Red Bulls at Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting has a 30-4-6 record when Salloi scores dating back to 2017.

Raised in Budapest, Hungary, Salloi signed for Sporting in January 2016 after two standout seasons with the Sporting KC Academy. He spent his first professional campaign on loan with Sporting KC II, formerly the Swope Park Rangers, as well as Hungarian club Gyirmot SE. He then experienced a breakthrough year in 2017, scoring six times including the decisive second goal in a 2-1 victory over the Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup Final.

Salloi enjoyed a superb 2018 as the club’s Golden Boot winner, notching 16 goals and seven assists while helping Sporting to first place in the Western Conference. He reached even greater heights in 2021, recording 16 goals and 10 assists in all competitions as a finalist for both the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award and the MLS Comeback Player of the Year. His 24 combined goals and assists during the regular season were tied for fourth in MLS, while his 16 non-penalty goals were tied for the league lead and equaled the MLS record for a homegrown player.

The 2022 campaign has seen Salloi add eight goals and three assists, including two strikes in Sporting’s run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals as he became the club’s all-time leading scorer in the competition. He is currently the team’s regular season leader in shots (56), shots on target (22) and assists (three) while placing fourth in chances created (22).

  • Story from Sporting KC