Student face mask-mandating districts will lose School Board salaries, state order warns

Children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.
Democrats decry "defunding schools" in reaction to order

According to a state Education Department order issued Friday, school board members in Alachua and Broward counties have 48 hours to drop mandatory face masks policies for students or begin to face financial consequences as soon as next week.

If the school districts don’t document how they comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order allowing parents to opt out of student face coverings, the school districts will face a reduction in state aid next week that must be taken out of school board members’ salaries, the orders say.

“Failure to follow the law unlawfully denies Alachua parents and legal guardians their right to make fundament health care and educational decisions for their children,” the order to Alachua County schools reads, noting that the 1/12 reduction in board members’ salaries is the initial step in enforcement. The reduction will continue each month the districts don’t comply with DeSantis’ directions.

This week, a state Education Board meeting also included the threat of reducing state aid in the amount equal to the superintendents’ salaries and the removal of non-compliant School Board members in the offending districts. The orders Friday named which School Board members had voted in violation of DeSantis’ order on masks.

Jackie Johnson, a spokeswoman for Alachua County schools, said that the district plans to stay the course — and maintain the requirement that all students are masked, except if they have a doctor’s note. The Alachua School Board voted Tuesday to extend the initial two-week mandatory student mask policy that was in place when school started on Aug. 10.

Alachua Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon said she received a phone call from U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona offering his support for her stance, as well as assurances from the Alachua County Commission that any loss in state funding would be rectified, and numerous medical professionals confirming the School Board’s vote for mandatory masks was correct.

“I am gratified by the outpouring of positive messages this district has been receiving,” she said.

Broward School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood remained steadfast as the news of the threatened punishment came from Tallahassee.

“Our School Board feels the Governor is overreaching his authority,” Osgood said in a written statement. “The Constitution of the State of Florida gives local school boards the authority to make policies that govern local school districts.

“The safety and security of our students remain our highest priorities,” she added.

Condemnation for the state order came swiftly.

“Gov. DeSantis is defunding our schools when he should be fighting like hell to keep them open and safe,” said Charlie Crist, a Democrat running for governor, in a written statement. “He’s treating public school educators who want to keep their schools open and safe like they’re the enemy — when the real enemy is this virus that has already infected thousands of children this school year. This is a stain on Florida’s conscience, and I am confident the voters will remember this ordeal at the ballot box next year.”

Miami-Dade Sen. Annette Taddeo said she was “flabbergasted” by Friday’s order.

“I can’t believe the Governor has the audacity to come to Miami to pretend like he cares about democracy in Latin America, but he’s behaving exactly like the dictators we all despise, all to score political points for a presidential run,” she said.

Just behind Alachua and Broward school boards’ defiance, Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties did the same. Hillsborough and Palm Beach revoked the parental opt-out option on their mask policies after thousands of students turned up either positive for the virus or under quarantine for close contact with a positive case. A Hillsborough school district spokeswoman said the district had not received any communication from the state Education Department about the vote.

Miami-Dade County School Board members also voted to mandate student masks in advance of school starting in that district on Monday. Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Friday it’s time to turn away from these political issues and focus on the children.

The district has not been served by the state for its Aug. 18 vote, he said.

Fort Lauderdale Sen. Gary Farmer says he doesn’t expect the order to stand up, but he finds it outrageous that the Governor would threaten School Board members in their pocketbook.

“These are bully tactics by a bully Governor who is drunk with power and doesn’t understand the separation of powers,” Farmer said.

The Governor’s Office has repeatedly stated that the order is an effort to protect parental rights from government overreach.

Politicians from state Legislators to President Biden have vowed, however, that no school officials will miss a paycheck for instituting mandatory face masks for students.

“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” Biden said.

The order also requires that any instance of student discipline for violating the districts’ mandatory face mask rule be reported to the state.

“Such report shall include the student’s name and grade, parent’s name(s), and home address,” the order says.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Alex

    August 20, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    Where do I send money to help these good folks protect our kids health?

    • Mike Jones

      August 20, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      • Alex

        August 20, 2021 at 3:34 pm

        Did you finish high school?

        • Mike Jones

          August 20, 2021 at 3:50 pm

          Yes and what trailer park is it you live in?

          • Anna

            August 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm

            My neighbor’s aunt makes 62 every hour on the internet..jji she has been without work for eight months but the previous month her revenue was 19022 only working on the laptop 5 hours a day..

            check this ……

  • Harriet Snell

    August 20, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    I agree with Gov DeSantis because mandating the wearing of face masks doesn’t protect you from Covid-19 anyway and opens the door to a myriad of other infections from breathing in your own carbon dioxide.

    • Shar

      August 23, 2021 at 6:02 pm

      Totally agree. It’s amazing how parents will put their own kids health at risk by allowing a school to mandate brideling a face mask on them. Kids hate them.

  • Andrew Finn

    August 20, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    Emperor DeSantis and his Vice Emperor have got to be both the biggest jackasses ever to set foot in any political office. I am in hopes that these school boards will refuse to be bullied and blackmailed by these two and tell them where to stick it !!!! There will be help for them coming from the Federal Government.

Comments are closed.


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