President Joe Biden addressed the nation on the topic of the coronavirus on Wednesday, going a step further in his battle against specific Republican governors who have pushed back against mask mandates in schools.
Biden said, “For those who aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet — children under the age of 12 — masks are the best available protection for them and the adults around them. That’s why we need to make sure children are wearing masks in school.”
“Unfortunately, as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain. Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They’re setting a dangerous tone,” Biden added.
He went on to say, “Today, I am directing the Secretary of Education — an educator himself — to take additional steps to protect our children. This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal actions, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”
The Biden administration has been looking for ways to get further involved in states’ affairs, specifically taking aim at Florida and Texas where Republican Governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, respectively, have signed executive orders banning mask mandates.
According to The Daily Wire, “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.
“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.”
Cardona sent a similar letter to Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott, saying that the Department of Education “stands with” the educators who are “working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction.”
Abbott has been in a legal battle with local districts that wish to defy his executive order banning mask mandates and impose their own restrictions on regions and schools.
Governors across the country are continuing to take steps to give parents the ability to make decisions about their children’s health.
Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Monday giving parents the ability to make decisions about whether their kids wear masks in schools.
He stated, “Right now, some of the greatest frustration is occurring in our K-12 schools, especially around the issue of mask mandates. While local decision-making is important, individual decision-making by a parent on issues regarding the health and well-being of their child is the most important.”
“No one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent. I am signing an executive order today that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate if either a school board or health board enacts one over a district,” he added.
His executive order says, “a student’s parent or guardian shall have the right to opt out of any order or requirement for a student in kindergarten through twelfth-grade to wear a face covering at school, on a school bus, or at school functions, by affirmatively notifying in writing the local education agency or personnel at the student’s school.”
The decision comes as kids go back to school in the midst of ever-changing COVID-19 guidance and intense debates surrounding school board decisions regarding mask-wearing for children