Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the state’s board of education could withhold superintendents’ and school board members’ salaries if they require students to wear masks in school.
“With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for noncompliance of state law regarding these rules and ultimately the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s education and health care decisions, it would be the goal of the State Board of Education to narrowly tailor any financial consequences to the offense committed,” DeSantis’ office said in a statement to CBS4 Miami.
“For example, 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,” the statement continued.
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,” his office further noted to CBS4 Miami.
In late July, DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting the use of masks in schools and threatening to withhold state funding from schools that continue to enforce mandates. In response to the governor’s executive order, Broward County Public Schools, Florida’s second-largest school district, dropped its mask mandate last week.
DeSantis promised in July that there would be no mask mandates in the state and that he would take whatever steps were necessary to combat such federal directives.
The governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools is facing legal challenges, alleging his executive order is unconstitutional, according to CNN.
One of the August lawsuits claimed that the Florida state constitution guarantees a safe school environment and gives counties the authority to make public health decisions.
Opponents of DeSantis have claimed that his actions to ban mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions are fueling the state’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Florida accounted for roughly 20% of new cases in July, as the highly contagious delta variant spreads and the number of vaccinations administered per week has decreased, CBS4 Miami reported.
Florida recorded around 134,000 new cases and 616 deaths in the week ending Aug. 7 according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Around 51% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.