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DeSantis Threatens to Withhold Salaries of School Officials Who Enforce Mask Mandates

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, has suggested that the paychecks of school administrators who force students to wear masks may be withheld. His office also said that the State Board of Education had the authority to withhold the paychecks of any school administrators that fail to keep DeSantis’ order against school mask mandates.

If these administrators go against the governor’s orders, not only can pay be withheld but there could be even more harsh penalties for the school systems. Entire districts could be stripped of state funding.

The governor’s office told CBSMiami, “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.”

The statement also said, “For example, the State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law.”

The governor’s office made it clear that education funding is meant to benefit students first and foremost, not systems “The Governor’s priorities are protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs,” according to the statement.

It was on July 30th that Governor DeSantis signed an order that banned school districts from putting back in place some COVID-19 pandemic restrictions for the coming school year. These restrictions included mandating that students wear masks in classrooms.

“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-175, in response to several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden Administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks,” the governor’s office said. “The Florida Department of Health will enter rule-making in collaboration with the Florida Department of Education to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”

At least one school district changed its course and cut policies that would mandate that students wear masks on their return to school. Broward County Public Schools made an announcement last week that their school district would discontinue its health mandate in light of the governor’s order.

The school made this statement: “Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order. Last week, the School Board of Broward County mandated the wearing of masks in our schools to protect our students, staff, and community. Safety remains our highest priority. The District will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools. The District will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick. The District is continuing to collaborate with our local health organizations to monitor trends in the spread of COVID-19 and variants.”

DeSantis’ critics come against his actions to ban mask mandates and they maintain that other pandemic restrictions are fueling an ongoing surge of COVID-19 infections in the state.

Florida accounted for around 20% of new cases for one week in July, as the delta variant continues to spread and the number of vaccinations administered per week has declined, according to CBS4 Miami.

Florida recorded around 134,000 new cases and 616 deaths in the week ending Aug. 7 according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Around 51% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.