(USA Features) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fired back at recalcitrant school boards who are planning to defy his executive order against mask mandates, saying they may not get paid.
“With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for noncompliance 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,” said a statement from the GOP governor’s office on Monday.
“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 statement continued.
“Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems,” the statement added.
“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,” it said.
The statement is the latest salvo in the growing war between some larger Democrat-run school districts in the state and DeSantis, who has repeatedly said he believes forcing kids to wear masks for more than eight hours a day is harmful.
He has also said that given kids’ low susceptibility to COVID-19 and its Delta variant, it should be up to parents to make the decision, not school districts.
Last week, DeSantis threatened to defund districts that defied his order, leading at least two of them to reverse course.
But Monday’s statement appeared to clarify that only salaries for school superintendents and board members would be withheld, not for teachers and school staff.
The governor’s statement also comes after a group of Florida parents asked a judge to block DeSantis’ order ahead of the official start of the school year.
The lawsuit argues that DeSantis’ order violates a provision in the state constitution that requires school officials to ensure a safe environment for students.
“The Executive Order impairs the safe operation of schools,” said the parents in the lawsuit, which was filed in Leon County.
“Students will become sick and potentially die as a result of the failure to follow the mandatory masking requirements” that were established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, the CDC issued guidance, not requirements, and initially, the agency said that only unvaccinated children 12 and younger should wear masks.
“At least seven states, including Arizona, Texas and Arkansas, have banned local school districts from requiring pupils to wear masks,” Newsmax reported Monday.
“Other states, like California and Washington, have required them in public schools but with some flexibility for school districts,” the outlet continued.
When DeSantis issued his executive order July 30, he called the CDC’s guidance “unscientific and inconsistent.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a physician who practiced for 20 years, told CNN over the weekend he disagreed with DeSantis’ order.
“The local officials should have control here,” Cassidy said.
“When it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full, and my vaccination rate is low, and infection rate is going crazy, we should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community.”