ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he would “fight back vociferously” against any Biden administration attempt to overrule his policies regarding parental choice on masks in schools.
What You Need To Know
- DeSantis, Corcoran ceremoniously handed out $1,000 bonus checks to about a dozen teachers in St. Pete
- Governor said he would "fight back vociferously" against overrule of his mask policies in schools
- School districts in Orange, Hillsborough and Seminole counties have mandated masks for students but with opt-out option
- RELATED: Florida, Texas schools defying bans on mask mandates
“Our view, of course, is that we believe this is a decision for the parent to make, just given the uncertainty about what it means, particularly for the young kids …” he said.
DeSantis made his comments in response to a question during a news conference at St. Petersburg’s Lakewood Elementary School, where he and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ceremoniously handed out $1,000 bonus checks to about a dozen teachers.
They stood among about 170,000 full-time teachers who should receive the checks any day, DeSantis said. The governor touted the checks as tokens of appreciation for teachers and administrators, including for their work over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The news conference came as Florida schools opened this week during a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations throughout Florida, prompting concern among parents and leaving school districts scrambling to establish policies amid new state rules that limited their powers.
The news conference also followed a Tuesday meeting in which the Broward County School Board voted to maintain the school district’s mask mandate, which flies in the face of orders from DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education.
That vote sparked a letter from state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and a threat of financial sanctions against the Broward school district.
Also Tuesday, the Biden administration said it would continue to “look for ways” to support schools and school districts “as they try to follow the science, do the right thing and save lives.”
WATCH: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: Dept of Education is looking at a range of options to help protect teachers and students in Florida.— Greg Angel (@NewsGuyGreg) August 10, 2021
Adds: Florida has not distributed any of the money set aside for them in the American Rescue Plan to help schools reopen safely. pic.twitter.com/cmyRePkaCm
“They’re also talking about imposing a potential nationwide mask mandate on kindergartners, first graders — who knows — regardless of what the parents believe is in the best interest of their kids,” DeSantis said during the Wednesday news conference.
The governor perhaps referred to reports that the Biden administration was “checking” to see whether it could intervene to stop states, specifically Florida and Texas, from imposing bans on mask mandates.
“Obviously, if you’re talking about the federal government coming in and overruling parents in our communities, that would be something that we would fight back vociferously against,” DeSantis said.
Corcoran didn’t take questions at the news conference.
In a letter dated Tuesday to Broward County Schools Interim Supt. Vickie Cartwright and school board chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood, the education commissioner expressed “grave concern” about the school district’s “significant neglect” of a Florida Department of Health order that gives parents an opt-out ability from any mask mandates on students.
Corcoran also said in the letter that he was “immediately initiating an investigation of non-compliance with rules adopted by the Florida Department of Health and the Florida State Board of Education.” He wrote that he demanded a response by Friday.
“Any failure to adequately document and substantiate full compliance with this rule will result in sanctions permitted under law …” Corcoran wrote. He said he “may recommend” that the State Board of Education “withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for the Superintendent and all members of the School Board.”
School districts in Orange, Hillsborough and Seminole counties have mandated masks for students but with the opt-out option that the Florida Department of Health requires.