The Biden administration's move to offer money to school districts that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had threatened to cut off for defying his call not to enforce mask mandates was illegal because school superintendents don't work for the federal government and can't get compensation from it, state Rep. Danny Perez told Newsmax Monday.
"About a week-and-a-half ago, Gov. DeSantis gave $1,000 bonuses, which included some of the federal funds, to our teachers and our principals for all the hard work that they've done throughout the time period of the pandemic," but the Biden administration criticized him, the Florida Republican told Newsmax's "National Report."
But still, the Biden administration said it would step in and provide money for the schools if DeSantis had them cut off, said Perez.
The governor's office over the weekend, however, said it was going to pull back on that threat, as school superintendents and board members are not state employees, but the office said the officials should cut their own salaries rather than leave the fallout up to students, teachers, and school staff.
"Superintendents are not federal positions," said Perez. "They cannot receive money directly from the federal government. That is different from the bonuses because that was from the state and now the federal government is trying to pay them directly. They are not able to do so."
He also called it "ironic" that the government was faulting the state for giving bonuses to teachers, but a week later, "because it's their idea and because it's not in their benefit to agree with Gov. DeSantis, they give the complete opposite side of the coin."
Meanwhile, Florida's COVID numbers are going up, but this is a national problem, not just one with Florida.
"Every state is addressing this issue as best as they can, and we're doing so in Florida as well," said Perez. "The governor has repeatedly said, if you are able to get vaccinated, please go do so. He is not an anti-vaxxer. He is not trying to steer people away from wearing masks or getting vaccinated if they choose to do so, and that is what is so important. We have continually said if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you want to get vaccinated, get vaccinated."
But instead of mandates, "we trust our people to make the right decision here in Florida," said Perez.
"What's getting interpreted here, specifically, when it comes to the masks conversation is the parent-teacher relationship when it comes to masks and what's being mandated," he said. "We are allowing parents to make what they believe is in the best interests of their child, on whether or not that child would wear a mask or not, and if they want to opt-out from their child being able to wear a mask, they should be able to do so."
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