Eight county school boards in Florida are to be disciplined by the State Board of Education for maintaining mask mandates for students despite DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-175 (EO 21-175) that leaves that decision to their parents.
In a conference call on Thursday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other board members doubled-down on financial penalties set for county school board members who continue to place mask mandates in their schools.
The counties in violation of the order include Alachua, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach.
Alachua and Broward counties are two that were already penalized, but were repaid with funding from the Project to Support America’s Families and Educators grant program, or “Project SAFE.”
Project SAFE was established by the Biden administration on September 9th in direct response to states like Florida who have established policies that restrict its school districts from following CDC guidelines.
“I strongly believe that this federal grant program improperly attempts to interfere with the state board’s authority to manage our state’s educational system. Education is a state responsibility, not a federal one, and one given to this board under our state’s Constitution,” Corcoran said on Thursday.
On the same note, he added that Project SAFE was a way to “buy off school districts” in order to “neutralize and abolish” the Board of Education’s authority.
In an attempt to tackle counties being bailed out by Project SAFE, Corcoran proposed that the state penalize any county that receives funding from the federal program equal to the amount in which they receive.
According to The Capitolist, the U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, Ian Rosenblum, wrote an email to Corcoran in the same day saying that the new proposals “raise legal concerns.”
Citing the part of the federal law that he says is concerning, Rosenblum says, “[States] shall not take into consideration payments under this act … in determining the eligibility of any local educational agency in that state for state aid, or the amount of state aid, with respect to free public education of children.”
As far as a time frame for when the eight school districts must lift their mask mandates, Corcoran recommended that each of the eight districts be given 48 hours to rescind mask requirements and comply with EO 21-175.
Of the eight counties being penalized, attorneys for school boards in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Duval, Alachua and Leon counties, have filed challenges against the state in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
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