The Florida Department of Education has followed through on a threat to suspend funding to local school districts that have defied Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask warrants.
Just days after a state judge ruled the governor’s ban unconstitutional, the Florida education commissioner announced on Monday that the state was withholding funds from Alachua and Broward counties. ” for their continued violation of state law “.
“We will fight to protect the rights of parents to make health care decisions for their children. They know what is best for their children, “Richard Corcoran said in a statement on Monday.
The funds, which he said amounted to “monthly salaries for school board members,” would continue to be withheld in Alachua and Broward counties until school districts comply.
“What is unacceptable is the politicians who raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but do not do so. Simply put, elected officials cannot choose the laws they want. follow, ”Corcoran said.
Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a statement Tuesday that she was “very disturbed by the state’s action.”
“The members of our school board made the courageous decision to protect the health and lives of the students, staff and residents of this community, and a court has already ruled that they have the right to do so. They deserve praise, not sanctions, ”she said. noted.
Simon added that the school district has already started taking legal action to “ensure that Florida districts have the right to act in the best interests of those they serve.”
Broward County Public Schools Acting Superintendent Vicky Cartwright, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, told NBC Miami that she believes the school district was also in compliance with the law.
“The health and safety of our students, teachers and staff continue to be our top priorities. As such, BCPS will continue to impose masks, knowing the data shows they are helping to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, ”Cartwright said in a statement. “As previously stated, this decision will be reviewed by the school board after Labor Day as conditions may change and modifications may be appropriate.”
Jared Ochs, director of communications for the state’s Department of Education, told NBC News in an email on Tuesday that school funds have been withheld since Thursday.
“Our department plans to continue upholding the rule of law until the court issues its decision, and following that decision, we plan to immediately appeal this decision to the First DCA, from which we will seek to stay the decision, “he said.
Florida has become the epicenter of the latest wave of the pandemic in the United States with a record number of new cases and hospitalizations at the start of the school year earlier this month. In July, DeSantis, a Republican, banned local school districts from forcing students to wear masks even as the nation battled a resurgence of the coronavirus.
A Florida judge on Friday overturned Desantis’ order, saying Tallahassee’s sweeping action did “fail the constitutional rally.” School districts have the right to establish policies, like mask warrants, as long as they have “a compelling state interest” and have a “narrowly tailored” course of action, according to the judge’s ruling. Leon County Circuit, John C. Cooper.