The Florida Board of Education will consider a proposal Friday allowing students to transfer out of schools that implement public health mandates.
If approved, parents of K-12 students may use the Hope Scholarship to prevent “educational danger” and “learning loss” under COVID-19 policies such as mask mandates.
The move, notably, would broaden the scope of the Hope Scholarship. The program was originally created as a means for victims of bullying to transfer schools.
“The agency finds that the potential for student learning loss and educational disruption with schools starting next week, creates an immediate danger to the public health, safety and welfare of students and requires emergency action,” the proposal reads in the meeting agenda.
The emergency meeting comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis denied local school boards the authority to implement student mask mandates on school grounds.
Despite the order, some counties are moving forward with alternative mandates.
On Wednesday, Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna mandated employees wear masks indoors when within six feet of students when school starts next week.
Orange County announced similar plans Wednesday, also ordering employees and visitors to wear masks on school grounds.
Notably, DeSantis’ order authorizes Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to “pursue all legal means available to ensure school districts adhere to Florida law.” That includes potentially defunding districts that defy the executive order.
With classes set to resume in the coming weeks, schools have reemerged as a political battleground amid the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried — a gubernatorial candidate — joined a chorus of Democrats demanding DeSantis stay out of local politics.
The executive order, she warned, is an “overreach” and threatens children’s lives.
The order also drew the ire of President Joe Biden.
“Please help: if you aren’t going to help, please get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing,” Biden said Tuesday of DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The emergency meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.
In a statement, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar described the proposal as “ridiculous.”
“Judging from its new proposed rule, the state Department of Education sees not a public health emergency, but a mask emergency,” Spar said. “FLDOE is using the Covid crisis as yet another opportunity to defund our neighborhood public schools and promote unaccountable, for-profit private and religious schools. Everyone’s top concern should be protecting the safety and wellbeing of Florida’s students, not playing politics with school funding.”