For Broward County School Board members who voted to require students to wear masks in defiance of gubernatorial order, the federal government has restored what Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken away — and then some.
Broward County Public Schools received notice Tuesday that the district will be awarded a U.S. Department of Education Project Safe Grant of $420,957.
The district was under a Florida Department of Education order that the district’s state aid would be withheld in an amount equal to the salaries of its nine board members.
The reduction means the district is receiving $35,080 less in state aid for each month the mandate is in effect, according to a district news release. To date, $70,160 has been withheld, with the most recent funding withheld on Friday, according to a district news release.
“We are grateful for the support of the federal government in helping us continue to protect our students and staff from COVID-19,” said Broward County Schools’ Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright.
Broward County becomes the second school district in the state to receive the federal grant, which was set up to reimburse school districts financially penalized by state governments for their policies to stop the spread of COVID-19. Alachua County schools’ grant was announced last week.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona applauded districts adopting best practices — such as mandatory masks — to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them,” Cardona said, according to a news release. “We stand with the dedicated educators doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and this program will allow them to continue that critical work of keeping students safe.”
Even before the federal government announced its support for school board members who defied state laws banning mask mandates, Broward School Board members were ready for the hit. The board voted on July 28, before school began in August, to require masks as the delta variant surged. After that, DeSantis issued his executive order banning mask mandates at school.
The Broward School Board met to reconsider its vote given the Governor’s opposition and threat to withhold School Board salaries.
They decided to stand firm.
“I guess I’ll go to my community to set up a GoFundMe or work at McDonald’s,” said School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood at that Aug. 11 meeting. “At least I’ll be able to have a moral conscience and know I didn’t put someone’s life at risk.”
Other states to impose mask mandate bans include Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.