The Florida Department of Education (FDE) warned school officials in Broward County on Tuesday to rescind a mask mandate for students or lose their pay.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration is giving the Broward County School Board until Friday to comply with his executive order banning school districts from forcing students to wear masks with parental consent. If the school refuses, the FDE has threatened to withhold pay from the school officials and administrators behind the mask mandate.
DeSantis’ threat comes after the school board voted Tuesday to stand by a mandate approved July 28 requiring all teachers, students, and staff to wear masks with few exceptions.
“This letter is sent to express my grave concern regarding your district’s significant neglect in response to the governor’s order banning mask mandates in schools,” Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran wrote in a letter obtained by RedState. “The action taken today at the Broward County School Board meeting makes it clear that you have no current intentions of complying with this order, which is intended to guarantee choice options to parents/guardians regarding their child while also protecting families and students federal and state protected rights to privacy.”
“I am immediately initiating an investigation of non-compliance with rules adopted by the Florida Department of Health and the Florida State Board of Education on August 6, 2021. In commencing this investigation, I am demanding that you provide a written response by 5 p.m. on Friday, August 13, 2021, documenting on how your district is complying with [the state order],” he continued.
Depending on the results of the investigation, Corcoran then warned the school officials that if Broward County Public Schools is found in violation of the order, the state may strip the school of some state funding.
“Any failure to adequately document and substantiate full compliance with this rule will result in sanctions permitted under law … Depending on the facts presented, I may recommend to the State Board of Education that the Department withhold funds in an equal amount to the salaries for the Superintendent and all the members of the School Board,” Corcoran said.
“There is no room for error or leniency when it comes to ensuring compliance with policies that allow parents and guardians to make health and educational choices or their children,” he added. “Again, if this matter is not addressed by submitting the documentation establishing compliance with the law, maximum accountability measures provided for under the law will be imposed.”
In addition to pushback from school board, the DeSantis administration is also receiving warnings from the federal government about the state’s position on masking in schools. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Biden administration is looking at options to aid Florida school officials that are stripped of pay for implementing mask mandates on students.
“If you’re not interested in following the public health guidelines to protect the lives of people in your state, to give parents some comfort as they’re sending their kids to school, schools are opening in Florida this week I know, in many parts of Florida, then get out of the way and let public officials, let local officials do their job to keep students safe,” Psaki said. “This is serious, and we’re talking about people’s lives, and we know based on public health guidelines that even though kids under a certain age are not yet eligible, masks can have a huge impact.”