TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida's Education Department is giving Broward and Alachua Counties 48 hours to comply with the governor's mask mandate ban or face a financial penalty.
That penalty would include state funds, on a monthly basis, in an amount equal to 1/12 of the total annual compensation of school board members opposing the governor's order.
If they continue to fail or refuse to comply with the law, they are ordered to provide the Commissioner of Education with information confirming the current annual compensation provided to all school board members within 48 hours.
"The Florida Department of Education has provided each district with numerous opportunities to correct their behavior in an attempt to find an amicable resolution to no avail," a statement from the Department of Education said. "The Department and the State Board of Education are committed to fulfilling their constitutional and statutory obligations to ensure all laws are faithfully implemented with fidelity."
On July 30, 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis issued and signed Executive Order 21-175. That rule requires public schools to “allow for a parent or legal guardian of the student to opt-out the student from wearing a face-covering or mask.”
“It is important to remember that this issue is about ensuring local school board members, elected politicians, follow the law. These public officials have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida. We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” said Commissioner of Education Corcoran. “These are the initial consequences to their intentional refusal to follow state law and state rule to purposefully and willingly violate the rights of parents. This is simply unacceptable behavior.”
Copies of each Order can be found at the links below:
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued the following statement in response to the Florida State Board of Education’s August 20 Orders to Alachua and Broward County school districts:
“The Biden Administration is fully committed to a safe and healthy return to in-person learning for all students this fall. It is deeply troubling to see state leaders putting politics ahead of the health and safety of our students, and that instead of supporting our educators for doing the right thing, state leaders are trying to punish them. This week, the President asked me to do everything I can to help protect our nation’s students and support the local leaders who are fighting for them. Let me reiterate: we stand ready to assist any district facing repercussions for imposing CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies that will protect the health and safety of students, educators, and staff. To that end, we’ve also made clear to district leaders that any financial penalties imposed by the state can be addressed immediately using CARES, CRRSA, or American Rescue Plan funds. Today, I also spoke directly to the Superintendents of Broward and Alachua County schools to reassure them that the President and his Administration stand with them and with all educators who put student and staff health and education first.”
- As outlined in the Secretary’s letter to Florida state leaders, the Department of Education considers federal pandemic relief funding part of “activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ an existing staff of the local educational agency” and allowable use of CARES, CRRSA, and American Rescue Plan funds.
- The Secretary spoke with Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright from Broward County, and Superintendent Carlee Simon from Alachua County today and reiterated the Administration’s support for dedicated educators like them doing the right thing to protect students, educators, and staff safety. He discussed how they can and should use federal pandemic relief funds to address any financial penalties levied against their districts as a result of them using CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies to protect the health and safety of their school communities. He also expressed disappointment in state leaders choosing to penalize educators at the time when they need the most support.