After initially requesting the House scrap their “Putting Parents First” plan, Gov. Ron DeSantis is on board with the House approach to holding accountable school districts that enforced mask mandates against state law.
DeSantis on Friday told reporters he wanted the House to take a different approach, over concerns the plan would harm school district funds. However, House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ spokeswoman suggested the Governor’s Office misunderstood the measure, stressing it was targeted against school administrators’ pay.
Speaking on the House floor as members discussed the chamber’s proposed budget, House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine referenced a “late-breaking news” tweet from the Governor in which DeSantis endorsed the House’s plan. The tweet followed personal discussions between Fine and the Governor over the last few days.
“Thanks to Speaker Sprowls, Rep. Fine and the House of Representatives for heeding my call to protect students and teachers from accountability measures affecting union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats who defied Florida law by force masking kids,” DeSantis tweeted during the House floor session. “Most students didn’t want to wear masks in the first place! Let’s also give parents recourse for harms imposed on their kids due to this defiance. They should get compensated for academic, social and emotional problems caused by these policies.”
The House plan would dock a collective $200 million from the salaries of high-paid administrators from the 12 districts that imposed mask mandates. The plan would use those dollars to reward the remaining 55 districts. Administrators making more than $100,000 annually would be subject to the reductions.
“Rather than take money that may penalize a teacher or student, because of the actions of some union-controlled school board member, my view would be, let’s not do that,” DeSantis told reporters in Marianna on Friday before ultimately endorsing the House proposal.
DeSantis’ latest stance puts the House and the Governor mostly back on the same page. DeSantis still is asking lawmakers to allow parents of children impacted by mask mandates to sue over negative effects from forced masking. Reasons for a suit could include speech problems, emotional problems and physical problems.
However, there are questions as to whether such a measure would be legal or have an even greater financial impact on school functions.
Fine has repeatedly disputed the notion the House proposal is punitive against school districts, instead arguing it holds them accountable for flouting state law they disagreed with.
“This is something we should do more often as a Legislature,” Fine said.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 15, 2022