President Joe Biden‘s administration kept its promise to back Florida school board members whose pay was docked this month for defying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates, the Department of Education announced.
An initial sum of $148,000 was granted on Sept. 23 to Alachua County school board members who voted earlier this summer to mandate masks in schools as Florida dealt with a surge of COVID-19 infections spurred by the more-contagious delta variant.
“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in his statement, adding that his agency would ensure schools and communities nationwide “know that we have their backs.”
The federal funding comes in response to an executive order the Republican Florida governor signed in July. According to the order, the state would withhold funding from any district that makes masks compulsory for students without allowing parents to opt out their children from participation. The state Education Department withheld salaries in response.
The federal Education Department also published a notice for additional districts to apply for funding, known as the Biden administration’s SAFE grant program.
A press secretary for DeSantis argued the federal effort to reward schools that defied the governor’s executive order shows that “they don’t believe parents have a right to choose what’s best for their children,” according to a statement sent to NBC News.
“Just a couple of months ago, the Biden administration said that Florida would be violating federal requirements by providing $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals,” said Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary. “Therefore, it’s ironic that the federal government is now using taxpayer funding for education to pay the salaries of elected school board members.”
The dispute over teacher and principal bonuses between the Biden administration and Florida stemmed from whether they should be subject to taxes.
“I think the question that we have is, was the [Biden] administration going to tax the bonuses, and I think they might,” DeSantis said in July. “Obviously, we don’t believe it should be taxable.”
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese
Original Location: US sends money to Florida school officials who defied anti-mask mandate