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TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 6/29/20-Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after signing the $92.2 billion 2020-21 budget Monday during a news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee. DeSantis vetoed more than $1 billion from the spending plan sent to him by the legislature. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Gov. DeSantis punts on responsibility for school reopening

Governor says it was not his call.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said a controversial order to reopen schools wasn’t his call, exactly.

“Well, first of all, I didn’t give any executive order,” the state’s chief executive said Monday in Orlando.

DeSantis asserted the order came from the Department of Education.

“They have a board, they do different things,” DeSantis told reporters during a question-and-answer session in which he seemed to suggest that on this issue, like the decision to close bars, political appointees somehow got to make unfettered calls about how large economic sectors will go, free of interference from the man who put them in place.

Interestingly, a member of the board itself wondered why the edict from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran came without board deliberation. Most were more pliant, however.

DeSantis, a first-term Republican, continued a trend Monday of trying to distance himself from his previous insistence that schools be open, as was normal pre-coronavirus, five days a week.

While he wants the physical option, he said parents should be “free to choose” and instructors worried about exposure should feel emboldened to “teach virtually or maybe they take a sabbatical.”

The Governor, meanwhile, finds himself a long way from certitude.

“There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride,” the order states.

Less than a week after the order was issued, DeSantis was unable to cogently defend it in a Bradenton news conference.

He left it to Senate President Bill Galvano to say that “school boards cannot ignore this order.”

The Governor, meanwhile, has attempted the soft sell of schools reopening, including saying that if his kids were school-aged, First Lady Casey DeSantis would happily send them to brick and mortar schools.

“My own wife, our kids aren’t school-aged yet, I tell her that they’re at zero risk, I have no problem putting them in, and I think that convinced her. She said she would do it too.”

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A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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