President Biden is offering financial aid to schools in Florida that are opposed to Governor DeSantis’ law against local mask mandates.
DeSantis threatened to withhold pay from superintendents and other school board members that went against the law, putting him in the hot seat as of late. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention just last month recommended indoor mask usage again, regardless of vaccination status. Florida and Texas have been among some of the states banning mask mandates, and with the new laws has come opposition with smaller school districts that want to require masks again.
School districts that lose state funding for wanting to follow CDC recommendations can pull from federal relief dollars, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Friday. DeSantis’ attempts to bar schools from enforcing mask mandates is “deeply” concerning given recent spikes in cases, Cardona said. It “puts students and staff at risk.”
“The Department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction,” Cardona wrote. While mandates are against the law, school districts may still recommend the use of masks. “We are eager to partner with [the Florida Department of Education] on any efforts to further our shared goals of protecting the health and safety of students and educators,” Cardona added, warning that his agency will work with school districts directly if need be.
On Friday, DeSantis’ spokeswoman Christina Pushaw criticized the White House for choosing to spend funds “on the salaries of superintendents and elected politicians, who don’t believe that parents have a right to choose what’s best for their children, than on Florida’s students, which is what these funds should be used for,” per Politico.
The Delta variant has spiked in Florida particularly hard in recent weeks, with the state setting a new record in daily cases just last week. Over 800 physicians are calling on DeSantis to repeal his schools order. Desantis is under legal fire from Florida parents, including those of students with disabilities, in opposition to the order.