The Florida Department of Education is withholding funds from two school districts require student to wear COVID-19 masks in classrooms this fall, following through on a DeSantis administration threat to financially punish school boards that impose a mask mandate.
The withholding of the funds is the most recent move in an ongoing battle between GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and local school boards. The fight has been framed in recent days as the governor acting to protect the right of parents to make health care decisions for their children.
“They know what is best for their children,” Florida education Commissioner Richard Corcoran recently said of state parents.
The financial penalty currently applies to the districts of Alachua and Broward counties, though it is not presently clear precisely how much money is being withheld, or which programs it will impact. The state education department had indicated it would withhold a monthly amount totaling the school board members’ salaries, which in the two counties range from about $40,000 to $46,000 a year per member.
Broward County released a statement saying it will continue to enforce its mandate.
The Biden administration has said that any school board stripped of funding due to backlash over masking policies could use federal stimulus funds to make up the difference.
Last week, a judge issued an injunction blocking Florida’s education department from penalizing local school boards, which the department says it plans to appeal.