Less than two days after the Florida Board of Education (BOE) ruled two school boards violated Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order and the state’s Parents’ Bill of Rights Act by imposing mandatory mask mandates and are subject to sanctions, three more districts have adopted similar policies.
School boards for Miami-Dade County, the nation’s fourth-largest school district, Hillsborough County, its eighth largest and Palm Beach County, the nation’s 10th-largest school district, on Wednesday approved school mask mandates with only a medical opt-outs available, for all students, faculty and staff regardless of vaccination status.
Like policies adopted by the Broward and Alachua country school boards, all three mandatory mask requirements violate DeSantis’ June 30 executive order and House Bill 1059 , the ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights Act,’ according to the BOE.
The BOE Monday night unanimously upheld state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s “probable cause” finding that Alachua and Broward county school districts’ indoor mask policies were adopted with “no intention” to comply with state law and should be sanctioned.
Potential penalties include withholding the equivalent of board and superintendent salaries from state funding appropriated to the offending districts and removing officials from their posts
The five districts and others considering defying DeSantis’ order received support Wednesday from President Joe Biden, who announced he had ordered U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to “take action” against governors who have banned mask mandates.
Biden administration officials had previously said that the federal government could set aside federal pandemic assistance earmarked for Florida schools to compensate districts for whatever allocations the state BOE sanctions districts that impose mandatory mask mandates.
DeSantis Wednesday night blasted Biden Wednesday on Fox News’ ‘Hannity Show’ for meddling in state affairs.
“You have all the stuff going on with Afghanistan – obviously all the stuff at the southern border … one of the biggest border disasters in the history of our country, inflation, gas prices and what does he do?” DeSantis said. “He is obsessed with having the government force kindergartners to wear masks all day in school.
“In Florida,” the governor continued, “we believe that that’s the parents’ decision. Joe Biden thinks the federal government should come in and overrule the parents and force these young kids to wear these masks.”
On Wednesday, Biden also unveiled a new policy that requires all staff and employees of nursing homes that receive federal Medicaid and/or Medicare funding to be vaccinated or lose the federal dollars.
While opening monoclonal antibody therapy clinics in Ormond Beach and Pasco County Thursday, DeSantis called Biden’s order a “massive hammer” that lacks congressional backing.
“The issue is these nursing homes could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid funding. So that is a massive hammer that they’re trying to bring down,” he said.
Citing an alleged “lack of leadership” by Biden, DeSantis said imposing such a vaccine mandate will drive people away from working at nursing home, which already face a shortage of workers.
“The issue is going to be, what’s that going to do to staffing? They’re already short-staffed,” he said. “And there’s a lot of people that feel strongly against being mandated, that they think it’s something they should chose. And they may have reasons why they make different choices. So I don’t know how it’s going to work. And there’s going to be a concern amongst these institutions about maintaining all the staff.”
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