President Joe Biden says he has ordered his administration to curb bans against mask mandates, even pursuing legal action if necessary.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health have issued rules against mask mandates in public schools amid the state’s fourth COVID-19 surge. However, Alachua and Broward county schools have implemented mandates in defiance of the state, drawing the State Board of Education to call those policies unlawful. Despite that, Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties’ school boards voted to implement mask mandates Wednesday, as promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden called interim Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright on Friday to voice his support for the district’s policies. That followed the President’s announcement that his administration was researching ways to intervene when states prevent local governments from requiring masks in schools.
On Wednesday, Biden told reporters he had instructed Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to take additional steps to protect children in schools.
“This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators,” Biden said.
And the President predicted he would have “a lot to say” about children in schools next week.
Earlier this month, Biden and DeSantis went back-and-forth over the Governor’s executive order banning masks mandates in schools. After Biden told DeSantis and other Republicans to “get out of the way” of local governments trying to combat the virus, DeSantis responded, telling the President that he was “standing in your way” and “I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you.” Biden’s quip in return: “Governor who?“
Biden on Wednesday again said he was asking officials to stop preventing lower-level officials from taking action to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” Biden said.
The DeSantis administration has suggested it could withhold funding to school districts that mandate masks, with the intent of targeting the salaries of school board members and superintendents. School districts can use the American Rescue Plan to patch funding gaps, according to the Biden administration.
During an emergency meeting on Tuesday, State Board of Education Chair Tom Grady floated the idea of the state removing school board members that violate the law. However, the Board of Education did not sanction Alachua or Broward county school districts in part because of Biden’s support for school districts.
Speaking in Pembroke Pines on Wednesday, DeSantis said the state’s preemption of school mask mandates isn’t personal but, instead, a matter of state law. He pointed to a new law dubbed the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The law empowers parents — rather than government — to direct a child’s upbringing on educational and health care issues.
Any insinuation otherwise, DeSantis suggested, is self-serving.
“If you make it about me, you get on CNN,” DeSantis said. “They’ll like you if you do that.”
His press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told Florida Politics the Governor would continue standing up for Florida families to “defend our rights, no matter what the Biden administration attempts to do.”
“The forced-maskers often criticize Governor DeSantis for overruling ‘local control’ to protect parents’ freedom to make health and education decisions for their own children. I doubt they will apply the same principle to this blatant federal overreach,” Pushaw said. “CDC bureaucrats and their politicized ‘guidance’ — which does not have the force of law — shouldn’t interfere with parents’ rights, which are protected under Florida law.”
Experts say masks are second to preventing the spread of COVID-19 after vaccinations, Biden noted.
“Let’s put politics aside. Let’s follow the educators and the scientists who know a lot more about how to teach our children and keep them safe than any politician,” the President said.
We will not sit by as Governors try to block or intimidate educators protecting kids against COVID-19.
This isn’t about politics. This is about keeping our kids safe and taking on this virus together.
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 18, 2021