Gov. Ron DeSantis found time during a teacher bonus event in St. Petersburg to weigh in on other matters, including federal encroachments on state prerogatives.
DeSantis was at an elementary school when he answered a reporter’s question about the potential Joe Biden‘s administration could find a way to pay school superintendents and board members cut off from the state for circumventing its mask mandate ban.
The DeSantis administration has threatened to withhold the salaries of school administrators who implement those policies against his orders. Biden and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki have said they’re looking into it, but DeSantis is calling the federal bluff.
“I’m not sure that they have the wherewithal. They’re also talking about imposing a potential nationwide mask mandate on kindergarteners, first-graders, who knows, regardless of what the parents believe is in the best interest of their kids,” DeSantis said. “Obviously, if you’re talking about the federal government coming in and overruling parents and our communities, that would be something we would fight back vociferously against.”
DeSantis again touted his policy for putting parents in control.
“So our view is of course that we believe that this is the decision for the parent to make, just given the uncertainty about what it means, particularly for a lot of the young kids to be in that. And I think that’s where the vast majority of the districts — I know we have I think two who are not providing the parents with the rights, but obviously we believe that the parent rather than the government ultimately should be able to make that decision.”
Broward and Alachua counties have broken with DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates. Unlike some counties, such as Leon and Duval, they do not permit parental opt-outs currently.
DeSantis’ executive order, issued in July, allowed the Department of Education to withhold state funds from mask-insistent school boards. That condition has clearly created, perhaps on purpose, another national coronavirus controversy for the Sunshine State. The threat has drawn political criticism. Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried likened DeSantis to a “bully on the playground.”
For full coverage of the St. Petersburg event, check reporter Kelly Hayes‘ comprehensive writeup.