Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the state’s board of education could withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who mandate wearing masks in schools.
“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,” DeSantis’ office said in a statement to CBS4 Miami.
“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.
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,” his office further noted to CBS4 Miami.
DeSantis signed an executive order in late July banning mask mandates in school and threatening to withhold state funding from schools that continue to enforce mandates. Broward County Public Schools, the second-largest school district in Florida, dropped its mask mandate last week in response to the governor’s executive order.
DeSantis promised in July there will be no mask mandates in the state and committed to pursue any necessary action to combat such directives from the federal government.
The governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools is facing legal challenges, alleging his executive order is unconstitutional, according to CNN. One of the lawsuits filed in August argued the Florida state constitution guarantees a safe school environment and provides counties the power to make public health decisions.
DeSantis’ critics have argued his actions to ban mask mandates and 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 highly contagious delta variant continues to spread and the number of vaccinations administered per week has declined, CBS4 Miami reported.
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.
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