State may offset federal aid to Florida schools defying mask mandate ban

'Every school board member and every school superintendent has a duty to comply with the law,' Commissioner Richard Corcoran says
Student wearing mask sits in algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School, Aug. 23, 2021
Posted at 3:43 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 17:17:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state is turning up the heat on school districts not complying with the governor's mask mandate ban.

Later this week, the State Board of Education will consider new sanctions for at least 10 defiant districts.

In letters, now posted online, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has recommended cutting state funds equal to monthly salaries for non-compliant school boards.

The schools will face a loss of thousands of dollars each month until they offer the required parental opt-outs.

"Every school board member and every school superintendent has a duty to comply with the law, whether they agree with it or not," Corcoran said in the letters. "While the district school board may not agree with the safety protocols set forth by the Surgeon General in rule, the Surgeon General is the person who, under the law, sets protocols to control and mitigate COVID-19 in schools."

And, in a new twist, Corcoran has also pushed for further cuts to cancel out any aid from the federal government. It comes after the U.S. Department of Education started reimbursing districts hit with losses last month.

Both Alachua and Broward counties received grants for following CDC masking guidance despite state sanctions. The nation's surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, gave them kudos for following the science during a recent interview.

"I want to applaud all the individuals out there, the leaders who are working hard to put these measures in place," Murthy said. "I hope all of us will do this soon because it's the key to getting our kids to get back to school and ultimately to be healthy and safe."

Gov. Ron DeSantis created the mask mandate ban at the beginning of this school year through an executive order. He continues to believe parents, not districts, should have the final say on masking.

The State Board of Education will consider the penalties Thursday at 1 p.m. during a teleconference.

Conference Call: 1-800-368-1029
Passcode: 380771

A livestream will be available on the Florida Channel.