White House Says Florida School Officials Penalized over Mask-Mandate Ban Could Be Federally Reimbursed

Biden's administration wrote Ron DeSantis, the Republican Florida governor, suggesting that school officials who were penalized for violating the state's ban on mask mandates be reimbursed with federal money.
It states that Florida can threaten to withhold salaries from school board members and superintendents who work to protect students or educators, or to levy financial penalties. This can be addressed by ESSER funds at any school district's sole and absolute discretion.

Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, wrote the letter in protest to DeSantis' recent executive order that prohibited public-school districts de imposing mask mandates upon students, faculty, staff.

Florida's recent efforts to prevent school districts from adopting science-based strategies for preventing COVID-19 spread, which are in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), puts students and staff at serious risk.

According to the document, the Department of Education stated that it stands in solidarity and will support those districts who resisted the governor's directive. Cardona stated that the administration would consider siphoning money from the Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, (ESSER), which is provided under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This will be used to pay school staff who have had their salaries withheld because they disobeyed the governor's order and required face-coverings in schools.

Cardona stated that ESSER funds can be used for activities that are necessary to continue the employment of existing staff at the local educational agency and to ensure the continuity and operation of local services.

Florida is accused of threatening to withhold funds from school districts that work to reopen schools safely, rather than protecting students and teachers and getting school districts the Federal Pandemic Recovery funds to which it is entitled.

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Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, condemned DeSantis' order at a press conference earlier this week and suggested that the administration might resort to federally reimbursed school districts that are revoked because parents were not allowed to opt out of policies that require hiding in the classroom.

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