The Biden administration is escalating its feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, by offering federal financial support to school districts in the Sunshine State that openly defy the governor’s ban on mask mandates.
Fox News reported Saturday that U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran informing them that the federal government would provide funds to school districts that defy the governor’s order and risk losing state funding.
“Florida’s recent actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts students and staff at risk,” Cardona wrote.
Cardona added that the school districts were following CDC guidance in requiring children, teachers, and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, even though numerous studies have shown children are at an extremely low risk for contracting the virus.
“We are eager to partner with [the Florida Department of Education] on any efforts to further our shared goals of protecting the health and safety of students and educators,” Cardona added. “If FLDOE does not wish to pursue such an approach, the Department will continue to work directly with the school districts and educators that serve Florida’s students.”
The Biden administration’s efforts to undermine DeSantis’ executive order are the latest in a longstanding feud between the administration and the Florida governor. Earlier this month, Biden said that governors – in particular DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) – should “get out of the way” if they weren’t going to reimpose onerous restrictions as the Delta variant spreads in southern states.
“The escalation of cases is particularly concentrated in states with low vaccination rates. Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new COVID cases in the entire country. Just two states. Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors: Please help, but if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives,” Biden said at the time.
DeSantis responded by saying he would continue to stand in the way of anyone trying to deny kids a proper education.
“And Joe Biden suggests that if you don’t do lockdown policies, then you should quote, ‘get out of the way,’” DeSantis said. “But let me tell you this, if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way, I’m not going to let you get away with it.”
“If you’re trying to deny kids a proper in person education, I’m gonna stand in your way and I’m gonna stand up for the kids in Florida,” DeSantis continued. “If you’re trying to restrict people, impose mandates, if you’re trying to ruin their jobs and their livelihoods and their small business, if you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way and I’m standing for the people of Florida.”
Last week, media outlets and the White House seized on a request from the Florida Department of Health for more ventilators, claiming it showed Florida was running low on supplies because it wasn’t properly handling the surge of the Delta variant. In fact, Florida is not running low on ventilators and made the request to maintain its supply cushion.