Florida could withhold salaries of school officials who institute mask mandate

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The Florida governor’s office said it may withhold the salaries of public school officials who institute mask mandates in their districts as new cases and hospitalizations surge in the state.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from establishing mask mandates earlier this month, days after the Center for Disease Control recommended that students and staff wear masks earlier this fall.

School boards were warned that state funding could be withheld if districts do not comply with the order.

On Monday, the governor’s office released a statement about what those financial repercussions could look like.

The state board of education could “move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law,” a statement of the Governor’s office read, obtained by CBS 4 Miami. 

The governor’s office said the decision is to protect “parents’ rights.”

“Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems. The Governor’s priorities are protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs,” it read.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who runs the fourth largest school district in the nation, released a statement in response, according to CBS 4.

“We have established a process that requires consultation with experts in the areas of public health and medicine. We will follow this process, which has served us well, and then make a final decision,” Carvalho said.

“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck; a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees.”

The new explosion of cases has put a strain on the state’s hospitals, including pediatric hospitals who say they are “completely overwhelmed” by the number of new children hospitalizations. 

Florida reported the highest number of child hospitalizations of any state on Sunday, with 172, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services.

Florida has set a new record for new cases over the past week with nearly 135,000 new infections of the virus, averaging over 19,000 per day. In the week from July 30 to Aug. 5, the Sunshine State has accounted for about 20 percent of all new cases in the country.

According to the Florida DOH, roughly 63 percent of the state has been vaccinated so far.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson admitted Wednesday that he was wrong for previously banning mask mandates in the state.

The governor now wants to amend the law to give schools the option to adopt their own mask requirements.

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