Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is fighting back against mask mandates in schools with all that he has. Some school board officials and superintendents have talked about their plans to defy his ban on mask mandates, citing the surge of cases linked to the Delta Variant. But DeSantis has made it clear that he would go so far as to withhold the salaries of ‘woke’ school board members who threaten the choices of parents.
“With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for non-compliance of state law regarding these rules and ultimately the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s education and health care decisions, it would be the goal of the State Board of Education to narrowly tailor any financial consequences to the offense committed,” a statement from DeSantis’ office reads.
It goes on to say that the State Board of Education could move to “withhold the salary” of the district superintendent or school board members who violate the law. It states that the education funding is intended to benefit the students first, not the system. It is about ensuring every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs.
While one of DeSantis’ potential opponents Nikki Fried criticized him for threatening to defund schools that “refuse to endanger children,” the governor emphasizes that parents have the fundamental right to raise their children, health, and well-being. He said that needs to be respected by all levels of government. Just to clarify, only salaries for superintendents and board members would be withheld. It would not take away funding for education or teachers/staff salaries.
“We believe that this should be a parent’s choice, and I think it flows from that bill. As a parent, I would like that choice, and a lot of these kids have recovered from COVID and there’s no scientific justification to put these kids to put it on in the first place, to begin with,” DeSantis said at a recent press conference.
The governor’s threats have caused two districts to reverse their imposed mask mandates. It also comes at the same time that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention changed their guides. In the face of Delta, the CDC announced that everyone should wear masks in schools, whether or not they are vaccinated. Earlier in the summer, they’d suggested that only unvaccinated children need masks at school. Even DeSantis argued against that, emphasizing how it is not backed by any science and creates two classes of society. He said the CDC’s rules have been “unscientific and inconsistent.”
Florida joins a handful of other states that have also banned mask mandates such as Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas. Left-leaning states, such as California and Washington, have mandated masks in schools.
The superintendents of Leon and Alachua counties have already said they would defy the governor’s order and require all students and faculty in K-12 schools to wear face coverings indoors. They knew the consequences of not complying with the parent’s rights and that it could result in district members losing pay.
Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna pointed to the COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, adding that the state has the highest number of confirmed pediatric hospitalizations from the virus. This would be 0.76 kids hospitalized per 100,000 residents.
But DeSantis has pushed back that it is a constitutional right to let parents choose what is best for their children. It is not up to a handful of school board members to tell children to mask up for another year. It is up to the parents. DeSantis has made it clear that he will do everything in his power to protect that right.