The federal Department of Education announced on Thursday it had paid the school board of Alachua County nearly $150,000, in essence, for defying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order barring mask mandates in schools.
The action comes nearly two weeks after a Florida appeals court upheld DeSantis’ executive order requiring schools to give parents the option to decide if their children should wear masks, ostensibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Florida Department of Education on Aug. 30 announced it would withhold funds from Alachua and Broward County (near Miami) schools for their defiance of the order, and a federal judge a week ago refused to block DeSantis’ action.
The U.S. Department of Education said Thursday it paid Alachua County schools $147,719 under the Project to Support America’s Families and Educators (SAFE) ''despite the state’s actions to prohibit implementation of strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19 ...''
''We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them,'' the release quoted federal Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. ''We stand with the dedicated educators in Alachua and across the country doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and with today’s first-ever award under Project SAFE, we are further enabling educators to continue that critical work.''
DeSantis issued his executive order in July requiring districts to give parents the choice to allow their children to be masked in school or not. A group of parents sued, winning an initial court ruling, which was subsequently overruled by the appeals court and also rejected by the federal bench.
''Just a couple of months ago, the Biden administration said that Florida would be violating federal requirements by providing $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals. Therefore, it’s ironic that the federal government is now using taxpayer funding for education to pay the salaries of elected school board members, who made the decision to violate the law because they don’t believe parents have a right to choose what’s best for their children,'' DeSantis’ spokeswoman Christina Pushaw wrote in an email to Newsmax.
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