Officials withhold school board salaries over mask mandates

Officials withhold school board salaries over mask mandates


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida state education officials on Monday began to make good on threats to withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates, despite a circuit judge last week ruling the ban unconstitutional.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran announced that the Florida Department of Education has withheld an amount equal to monthly school board member salaries in Alachua and Broward counties, as directed by the State Board of Education. Funds will continue to be withheld until the districts comply, Corcoran said.

Broward County Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said in a statement that Broward County School Board believes they are in compliance with the law.

“The health and safety of our students, teachers and staff continue to be our main priorities,” Cartwright said. “As such, BCPS (Broward County Public Schools) will continue to mandate masks, knowing the data shows they help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.”

DeSantis, a Republican who is eyeing a possible presidential run in 2024, had been threatening to impose financial penalties on school boards for weeks. Democratic President Joe Biden has said if that happened, federal money would be used to cover any costs.

School districts in Alachua and Broward counties were the first of 10 to require all students to wear masks unless they had a medical exemption in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Those districts, which include cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, represent slightly more than half of the 2.8 million Florida public school students enrolled this year.

Corcoran said those districts are violating parental rights by not allowing a parent or legal guardian to...

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