US funds Florida school district after state cuts mask mandate
September 24 (Reuters) – The US Department of Education said it gave its first funding to a Florida school district that withheld state funds because it required students to wear masks, going against the governor’s ban on such terms.
The department reimbursed the Alachua County School District nearly $ 148,000, the amount withheld by the state government in August, the department and school board said Thursday.
Jackie Johnson, communications director for the Gainesville School District, said Friday the state withheld funding in August equivalent to the salaries of the four school board members who voted to impose masks and other COVID safety protocols.
Johnson said the state withheld the same amount on Friday – and told the district it would continue to do so on a monthly basis as long as the district violates the governor’s ban on mask warrants.
School board members continued to receive their salaries, Johnson said. Funds that the district receives from the federal government will be returned to the general district fund.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in July banning school mask mandates. DeSantis said parents should decide whether their children wear masks.
Florida is one of many states in the United States where Republican governors have sought to stop local governments and school districts from imposing masks, in what has become a highly politicized fight over COVID-19 precautions.
Despite DeSantis’ banning of warrants, Alachua and the Broward County district in metropolitan Miami opposed the governor.
“We should thank the districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, without punishing them,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a written statement.
Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by David Gregorio
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