Education

Two Florida School Districts Face Funding Cuts For Defiance Of DeSantis’ Mask Mandate Ban

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Kendall Tietz Education Reporter
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  • Florida’s State Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to punish two school districts for requiring masks in their schools, despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates for school children.
  • Broward and Alachua school districts defied the governors’ orders by requiring students to wear masks at school without parental exemption, according to the Florida State Board of Education. The punishment for this defiance is not yet clear, but sanctions may target employee salaries or result in the removal of school board members, said Tom Grady, chairman of the education board, during the Florida State Board of Education emergency conference call.
  • In July, DeSantis enacted an executive order giving parents the opportunity to opt their children out of any school mask requirement. The two districts then imposed mask mandates with only limited exceptions to opt out, including authorization from a medical professional.

Florida’s State Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to punish two school districts for requiring masks in their schools, despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates for school children.

Broward and Alachua school districts defied the governors’ orders by requiring students to wear masks at school without parental exemption, according to the Florida State Board of Education. The punishment for this defiance is not yet clear, but sanctions may target employee salaries or result in the removal of school board members, said Tom Grady, chairman of the education board, during the Florida State Board of Education emergency conference call.

Florida’s Department of Education Press Secretary Brett Tubbs told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Department of Education staff was drafting orders, but it was not made clear when they would become available.

DeSantis threatened to withhold superintendent and school board salaries over mask mandates earlier this month. The Biden administration quickly sent a letter to DeSantis, explaining that federal sources can replenish the salaries of school employees sanctioned as a result of mask mandates. (RELATED: De Blasio To Keep Masks In Schools Despite CDC Guidelines)

“The state does not, and has never, managed the payroll for local officials,” said Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, The Wall Street Journal reported. “The only way the state could tailor the financial penalties to hold accountable the few officials who made the decision to break the law would be to withhold state funding in the exact amount of those officials’ salaries.” 

Supporters of a mask mandate and anti-mask mandate speak during public comments at the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting held at the district office on July 27, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended those who are vaccinated should wear masks indoors including students returning to school. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Supporters of a mask mandate and anti-mask mandate speak during public comments at the Hillsborough County Schools Board meeting held at the district office on July 27, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended those who are vaccinated should wear masks indoors including students returning to school. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

In July, DeSantis enacted an executive order giving parents the opportunity to opt their children out of any school mask requirement. The two districts then imposed mask mandates with only limited exceptions to opt out, including authorization from a medical professional.

“These districts, maybe while well-intentioned, have not followed the protocols,” said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during Tuesday’s education board meeting. “They have to comply with the law, whether they agree with it or not.”

Gainesville’s Alachua County and Fort Lauderdale’s Broward County are just two of more than 70 Florida school districts having similar conversations about masking students amid the surge of the delta variant.

Florida’s largest school district, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, met Wednesday and passed a mask mandate similar to Broward County’s that doesn’t allow parents to decide not to mask their kids, only allowing a medical exemption to qualify them to opt out, Local10.com reported.

“Our goal is to keep our schools open,” said Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, during the education board meeting, the WSJ reported. “The masks are a safety device that we are using to reduce the spread of Covid and the need for quarantine.”

Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried spoke on the education department’s call to condemn Corcoran and the rest of the Board of Education’s actions. 

“Shame on all of you,” she said to the Board of Education and Richard Corcoran. “How embarrassing that you are more afraid of the Governor than you are for the lives of our children and teachers, who are already getting sick and dying in record numbers.”

She was critical of the board’s threat to cut school officials’ pay on the grounds of breaking an executive order.

“I will continue to work with the White House to refund [officials’ salaries] and make sure history records your unconstitutional, partisan decisions, and I assure you that if you remove these duly elected constitutional officers it will not hold up in the courts,” Fried concluded.

Last week, three Broward County teachers died from COVID-19 within 24 hours of each other, NBC 6 first reported.

Florida’s Hillsborough County Public School district has thousands of students and employees quarantining or isolating after exposure to COVID-19 or testing positive for the virus. The Hillsborough County School Board met Wednesday and passed a mask mandate for all students and teachers that similarly will only allow a doctor’s note to opt children out of the mandate, not a parental decision, Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported.

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