President Joe Biden took a thinly-veiled jab at Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, accusing him of “bullying” teachers and school boards.
Vaccination requirements for teachers are “overwhelmingly supported by educators and their unions and all school officials trying to do the right thing by our children,” Biden claimed during his Thursday speech outlining his new COVID-19 recovery plan.
However, he said, “elected officials and states … are undermining you and these lifesaving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic, while their governor picks a fight with them, and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools.”
DeSantis issued an executive order on July 30 preventing local school boards from instituting mask mandates, arguing that “the parent is best to evaluate the effect that this will have on their children.” His office later announced that he could withhold salaries from superintendents or school board members who attempt to issue mandates.
A state judge later ruled that DeSantis could not enforce the ban on mask mandates, and that he could not dock the salaries of officials who try to enforce them while litigation is ongoing. (RELATED: Two Florida School Districts Face Funding Cuts For Defiance Of DeSantis’ Mask Mandate)
“These governors won’t help defeat the pandemic,” Biden said. “I’ll use my powers, as president, to get them out of the way. The Department of Education is already begun to take legal action against states undermining protections that local school officials have ordered.”
The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has already announced investigations of Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah for their bans on mask mandates. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona suggested that the bans violate the rights of students with disabilities.
“The Department has heard from parents from across the country — particularly parents of students with disabilities and with underlying medical conditions — about how state bans on universal indoor masking are putting their children at risk and preventing them from accessing in-person learning equally,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in August arguing that South Carolina’s ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Biden also promised to “100 percent” restore the pay of education officials who have their salaries cut over mask mandate rules.
“I promise you, I will have your back,” he said.