The serve-and-volley over the issue of masks being mandated in Florida schools continues, with school boards and Governor Ron DeSantis trading blows on the topic. With the White House injecting itself into the debate, school boards have felt emboldened to defy the order and laws, so now the governor has responded with promised retribution.
DeSantis has followed through with his vow to withhold targeted funding based on the response by certain school districts. He will be seeing to it that the school boards of Broward and Alachua Counties will have funding held back as a result of those bodies defying his order and installing mask mandates in the schools under their control. The spin from the media and the Biden administration has been, as expected, inaccurate.
The initial talking point has been that it is cruel for the governor to be taking much-needed money away from schools, especially at a time when they are spending more on Covid safety measures in classes. This is a dose of willful misinformation because the funding that is being withheld is for the school boards, and it is in balance with the salaries of the board members. As a sign of just how targeted this financial penalty is, the money is predicated on just the salaries of the board members who voted in favor of defying the order regarding masks.
Broward would potentially lose about $31,182 a month, which is equal to the monthly salaries of the eight School Board members who supported the mask mandate. The state will not withhold funding for the salary of Board member Lori Alhadeff, the only member who voted against the mandate. School Board members make $46,773 a year.
The next piece of misdirection is that the Sun-Sentinel states this was done as an act of retribution, not a legal punishment. State follows through on threat over school masks, reads their headline, the implication that this was being done as a personal vendetta. There is a multi-level legal obligation for the school boards, as they are in defiance of not only the governor’s executive order but also another order by the Department of health. There is also the provision under the Parent’s Bill of Rights, passed by the state legislature that permits parents to have the choice for their children.
Further, the State has given the stipulation that the money in play for the school board cannot be adjusted by taking funding from other budgets in the school system.
“In complying with this order, the School District of Broward County may not reduce any expenditures other than those related to compensation for school board members,” the order says. “Further, the School District of Broward County may not permit the reduction of funds based upon this order to impact student services or teacher pay.”
It now becomes a matter of whether there will be a next stage in this standoff. The two counties have two days in order to comply with the order forbidding mandates on masks. If they decide to continue with the mandates there will be another step that could be taken. In a lengthy conference call on the issue held earlier this week the state board indicated a willingness to remove those school board members who are openly defying the EOs and laws.