FL Gov. Threatens To Withhold Pay From School Officials Who Require Masks

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 
Joe Raedle/Getty

Amid surging cases, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now threatening to withhold salaries from school officials if they try to enforce mask mandates

Welp, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is continuing his fight against mask mandates. Even as COVID cases are surging in his state — including among children — DeSantis is digging his heels in and defending the executive order he signed last month forbidding school officials from requiring students to mask up. Only now, he’s being even more insane about it — he just threatened to withhold salaries from officials like school superintendents and school board members if they try to require masks in their districts.

There are several ongoing lawsuits over DeSantis’s executive order banning mask mandates in schools. There are also a number of Florida school districts that are considering mandates despite the ban, as local cases surge and Florida records the highest coronavirus numbers in the country, and more cases than the state has seen at any other point during the pandemic. The state also has more kids hospitalized with the virus than any other place in the U.S. The case positivity rate in Florida for kids under 12 is 20.5%, and 24.3% for people ages 12 to 19. Amid this surge, kids in Florida start going back to school next week.

And yet, a statement from a governor’s office spokesperson on Monday warned that the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members.”

DeSantis’s spokesperson Christina Pushaw tweeted this: “Ultimately — Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”

“I think the fairest thing to do is just say let parents make the decisions,” DeSantis said last week at an event in a hospital in Tampa.

Luckily, some school districts are fighting back. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna told CNN that he reached out to the governor’s office asking for flexibility and received no response, so he decided to start the school year with a temporary mask mandate in place.

Hanna told school officials at a meeting on Monday, “You can’t put a price tag on someone’s life, including my salary.”

He then added, “At the end of the day, if something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week because we started school and, heaven forbid, we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the governor of the state of Florida. I can’t.”

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