Sen. Joe Gruters promised he will file legislation providing school vouchers to anti-maskers unhappy with public school face covering mandates.
The Sarasota Republican on Facebook said he wants a program similar to HOPE Scholarships, which provide funding for bullied students to transfer to private schools. He dubbed the proposed program “Face Freedom Scholarships.”
“With families, not elected officials and bureaucrats, being the best decision makers for their children, I believe that all families should have choice in education,” he wrote, “from deciding which academic programs best fit the needs of their children to whether they believe their child should or should not be forced to wear a mask in school all day.”
He promised to file the legislation days before the General Election. He’s the heavy favorite for reelection in Senate District 23 over Democrat Katherine Norman. He’s also the state chair for the Republican Party of Florida, and he has been busy trying to secure Florida’s electoral votes for President Donald Trump’s reelection.
But he took a break from outward politicking to advocate for scholarships to children unwilling to submit to the public health requirement of masks in schools after families in Sarasota County sued the school district for its mask policy. Sarasota School Board members recently extended a mandate for 90 days over the objection of some parents, but with support from teachers concerned about the spread of COVID-19.
Gruters said he wants any family with a student enrolled in a school with a mask mandate to be given the option to transfer to an eligible private school on a scholarship.
He stressed he will not stand in the way of any family who wants their children to wear masks.
“To Be Clear: This is not anti-mask legislation (I elect to wear my mask often) and I will even draft this scholarship to make it crystal clear that there is no ban on the optional use of masks in school,” he wrote.
“If teachers, families and children elect to wear a mask at school, they would be permitted to do so. Instead, the Face Freedom Scholarship would simply empower families to make decisions that are best for their children and secure additional options to facilitate those decisions.”