Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has started withholding salaries from school district administrators who have refused to comply with his unconstitutional executive order prohibiting them from enforcing mask warrants in schools.
NBC 8 in Florida reports that Mr. DeSantis, through the state Department of Education, is withholding salaries from school board members who have refused to comply with the governor’s order.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced the decision on Tuesday, noting that administrators in Alachua and Broward counties would see their salaries withheld.
Mr Corcoran says both districts have adopted mandatory mask policies that do not allow parents to opt out.
The announcement comes at a time when the legality of Mr. DeSantis’ decree is changing.
Last week, a Florida judge ruled in favor of a parent group that sued DeSantis on the grounds that his directive was an unconstitutional abuse of power. The ruling prevents the state from outright banning mask warrants in schools.
Mr Corcoran said the state’s education department intended to fight the decision.
“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. What is unacceptable is the politicians who raised their right hand and pledged, under oath, to respect the Constitution but are not doing so. Simply put, elected officials cannot choose which laws they want to follow, ”he said.
Mr Corcoran said the department reserves the right to impose penalties on directors, which he says do not comply with state law. Sanctions will continue on a monthly basis until the directors comply with Mr. DeSantis’ mandate.
“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, “he said.
Based on the judge’s ruling, however, Mr. DeSantis’ decree is unconstitutional.
Carlee Simon, the superintendent of public schools in Alachua County, said she was “very disturbed by the action of the state,” in a statement.
“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.
Vickie Cartwright, acting superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, also said she believed her district was in compliance with state law as per the judge’s ruling.
“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, ”Ms. Cartwright said. in a report. “As previously stated, this decision will be reviewed by the school board after Labor Day as conditions may change and modifications may be appropriate.”
While Florida’s Covid-19 cases are on the decline, the state is still far from a full recovery after the fourth wave of the pandemic. Earlier this month, the state recorded more cases in a single day than at any time during the pandemic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adjusted their guidelines earlier this summer to recommend that all students, teachers and staff wear face masks in the classroom to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
In the first week of school in Florida, more than 10,000 students were quarantined or placed in isolation due to exposure to the coronavirus.
Hillsborough County schools have reported 5,500 cases of Covid-19 since the start of the school year. In Broward County, where masks are mandatory, three teachers died from Covid-19 just before the start of the school year. And in Palm Beach County, 440 students were quarantined just two days after the start of the school year.
The Independent Gt