August 22, 2021

Valerie Strauss: Battle over school masking escalates in Florida

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If you’re having trouble keeping up with the unfolding power struggle between Governor DeSantis and Florida school boards, this column from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post is a good quick catch-up.

Florida’s Board of Education said on Friday that two school districts would lose some state funding if they did not reverse mask mandates within two days, a move that ignored President Biden’s vow to take action against governors opposing mandatory masking.

A sixth school district on Friday defied a masking mandate ban imposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), and after the board’s threats were made public, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the Biden administration would “assist any district facing repercussions” for imposing mask mandates recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“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,” Cardona said in a statement.

DeSantis has been adamant that school districts allow parents to decide whether their children should wear masks in school, issuing a July 30 executive order to that effect.

But the school districts in Alachua and Broward counties went ahead with mandates — allowing only medical exemptions and not parental opt-outs — as cases of the delta variant of the novel coronavirus skyrocketed in the state.

On Wednesday, three districts joined them: Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest in the country; Hillsborough County, the eighth largest; and Palm Beach County, the 10th largest.

Late Friday in Sarasota County, where the current covid positivity rate is higher than 20 percent, the school board approved a 90-day universal mask mandate with only a medical exemption. Other districts may follow — and all of these districts could face financial consequences from the state.

Read the full column here.

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