The Slatest

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Threatens Salaries of School Officials Who Enforce Mask Mandates

Families hold sign saying things like, "Oxygen is essential" and "I will not wear your fear."
Families protest any potential mask mandates before the Hillsborough County school board meeting held at the district office on July 27 in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Any school officials who decide to defy Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prohibition on mask mandates for students could experience a financial impact for their decision. The state board of education could decide to withhold salaries of superintendents and school board members who ignore DeSantis’ executive order that forbids school districts from imposing mandates, the governor’s office warned. The financial penalties would hit officials in order to directly affect those who made the decision rather than students. “Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, said. “So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”

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Some school officials have remained defiant and said they will impose a mask mandate, regardless of what the governor’s office says. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna told school officials “you can’t put a price tag on someone’s life, including my salary.” Hanna insisted he needs to do what he thinks is right to protect children. “If something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week as we started school, and heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the governor of the state. I can’t,” Hanna said.

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Hanna wasn’t alone. Alachua County Superintendent Carlee Simon also said parents won’t be able to opt out of a mask mandate unless they have a medical reason. “I know it appears I’m being combative and I don’t want to be combative, but this is the responsibility I have in this position,” Simon said. When asked if she feared losing part of her salary as a result, Simon said she’d be “interested in the legal argument of how that could occur.”

The threat to financially punish school officials comes as the issue of masks in schools has turned into a rallying cry for DeSantis. But the insistence that parents should be the only ones who can make a decision on whether children wear masks in schools has even received some pushback from fellow Republicans. “The local official should have control here. I don’t want top down from Washington, D.C. I don’t want top down from a governor’s office,” Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said.

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