HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s campaign says she’s fully funded Kansas schools four years in a row.

But Republican challenger Derek Schmidt is criticizing her on closing down in-person learning at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s clear now looking at states around the country that those that trusted their people that did not lock their children out of their classrooms are in a better position today than those that chose to lock kids out,” Schmidt said in an interview with FOX4 Tuesday.

On Saturday, Kelly stood by her decision in a debate with Schmidt at the Kansas State Fair.

“Derek, I will never apologize for protecting the lives of our children,” Kelly said Saturday in response to criticism from Schmidt on closing down in-person learning.

Both campaigns are trying to get their messages out eight weeks before the election.

“I think if we were still locked down, it would be a big impact,” Emporia State University professor Michael Smith said when asked how much the lockdowns will have an impact on this fall’s election.

“The question is have we moved on? They were a political issue that cut across party lines at that time, and there were far more Democrats opposed than there were Republicans in support.”

“I actually think that it may be limited,” Smith continued, talking about COVID lockdowns from 2020. “I don’t underestimate how upset a lot of people were about the lockdowns. One of the reasons Republicans are doing this is because as I mentioned, there are more Democrats that are opposed to the lockdowns than there are Republicans that supported them, so in other words, being anti lockdown crosses party lines better than being pro-lock down does.”

Kelly did not do an interview with FOX4 Tuesday.

“Meanwhile, Derek Schmidt defended Sam Brownback’s unconstitutional funding cuts to education and stated just last weekend that we should not be funding special education,” Kelly spokeswoman Madison Andrus said in a statement.

“I believe very strongly Kansas schools must remain Constitutionally funded,” Schmidt said Tuesday. “I also believe that the United States Congress needs to step up and do what it has promised for decades, which is to properly fund special education. It is after all a federal mandate, and there is a federal funding promise that has been bever net.”

There is just one more debate between Schmidt and Kelly before the Nov. 8 election. The debate’s happening at the DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park on Oct. 5, but it’s for Johnson County Bar Association members only.

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