Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has the ire of the liberal mainstream media, entrenched teachers’ unions and education bureaucrats as his national profile rose during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, DeSantis is fending off challenges to his gubernatorial authority when it comes to mask mandates in K-12 classrooms.
Under his direction, the state’s education department announced that it will withhold school board members’ salaries in school districts that continue to impose mask mandates on staff and students. The primary offenders are the county school boards in Alachua County and Broward County, which have resisted DeSantis’s executive order that struck down mask mandates in school buildings.
Florida’s Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, said, “We’re going to fight to protect parent’s (sic) rights to make health care decisions for their children. They know what is best for their children. What’s unacceptable is the politicians who have raised their right hands and pledged, under oath, to uphold the Constitution but are not doing so.”
Although a circuit court judge ruled that DeSantis overstepped his executive authority by banning mask mandates in schools, DeSantis affirmed that his actions are protecting parents’ freedoms to choose whether their children should wear masks or not. The Sunshine State governor previously attempted to withhold the salaries of school superintendents, but admitted that he lacked executive authority to do so.
Regardless of DeSantis’s actions, these counties said they will not deviate from the mask mandates and will seek legal guidance and action.
One of the superintendents resisting the governor, Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon, told ABC News, “I’m very troubled by the state’s action. Our School Board members made a courageous decision to protect the health and lives of students, staff and the people of this community, and a court has already ruled they had the legal right to do so. They deserve praise, not penalties.”
The interim superintendent for Broward County Public Schools, Dr. Vickie Cartwright, said that their highest priority is “the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff.” Cartwright said that the mask mandate will mitigate the virus’s spread in their schools.
It is the latest event in the ongoing saga among the governor’s office, the state’s education department, and rebellious counties. On August 20, the state’s education board gave Alachua and Broward school systems a two-day window to rescind their mask mandates, which the school systems rejected.
In addition, President Joe Biden’s Department of Education said it would investigate states such as Florida for banning mask mandates in schools over civil rights concerns.