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Florida schools could lose $200 million in state funding over facial covering mandates

School bus
Posted at 9:52 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 21:52:42-05

A dozen Florida school districts — including Hillsborough and Sarasota Counties — could miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding after implementing mask mandates at the beginning of this school year.

State. Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, recently unveiled the "Putting Parents First Adjustment" in the Florida House of Representatives' proposed budget.

The adjustment would slash $200 million in funding from 12 Florida school districts that mandated facial coverings for students without the ability for them to opt out.

Fine said this proposal will “send a message that you hurt kids. don’t do it again. follow the piece of paper that we pass out of this legislature.”

According to his proposal, the 200 million taken from the 12 districts will be split between the 55 districts that complied with the law.

Under the proposal, Hillsborough schools will lose $14,193,997, and Sarasota will lose 12,620,991 from their budgets.

“Any legislative body that takes funding from students, and resources from classrooms we have to question,” said Hillsborough County School Superintendent, Addison Davis.

Davis reacted to the proposal Wednesday afternoon, during a press conference he called to announce a request for pay increases for school bus drivers.

“I am proposing to the school board to consider increasing pay from $14.57 to over 16 an hour.”

Addison, determined to not let Fine’s proposal overshadow his announcement said, “we will make certain that we have the funds to support our bus drivers.”

Parents are worried, and they say this will end up hurting their kids, even though Fine said this will only impact administrators, especially those making more than $100,000.

“The idea that it’s only going to impact administrators is absurd,” said Demaris Allen.

Allen is a Hillsborough parent, and she’s been on the frontlines, fighting for funding years before the pandemic and mask mandates.

“We are already underfunded, then you’re going to take over $14 million from our school district struggling to get by,” she said. “That’s absolutely going to impact our kids. There’s no way around it.”

Speaking at a news conference in Marianna on Feb. 11, DeSantis said the Florida Legislature should not financially penalize school districts, but should instead give parents and guardians the power to sue.

"Rather than take money that may penalize a teacher or student because of the actions of some union-controlled school board member, my view would be, let's not do that," DeSantis said. "But what you could do is say, any parent whose kid was illegally forced masked this year in Florida in any of those districts, they should have the right to sue if their kids have any negative effects of it."

However, the governor appeared to change his stance on Monday, tweeting his thanks to Fine, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and the Florida House "for heeding my call to protect students and teachers from accountability measures affecting union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats who defied Florida law by force masking kids."

In his tweet, DeSantis said parents should have "recourse for harms imposed on their kids due to this defiance."

"They should get compensated for academic, social, and emotional problems caused by these policies," DeSantis wrote.