On Wednesday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on the coronavirus, taking a step further in his battle against specific Republican governors who have opposed mask mandates in schools.
Biden said, “Unfortunately, as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain. Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in school. They’re setting a dangerous tone.”
He went on to say, “Today, I am directing the Secretary of Education — an educator himself — to take additional steps to protect our children. This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal actions, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”
The Biden administration has been looking for ways to get more involved in state affairs, with a particular focus on Florida and Texas, where Republican Governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, respectively, have signed executive orders prohibiting mask mandates.
Earlier, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran informing them that the federal government would provide funds to school districts that defy the governor’s order and risk losing state funding.
“Florida’s recent actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts students and staff at risk,” Cardona wrote.
“We are eager to partner with [the Florida Department of Education] on any efforts to further our shared goals of protecting the health and safety of students and educators,” Cardona added. “If FLDOE does not wish to pursue such an approach, the Department will continue to work directly with the school districts and educators that serve Florida’s students.”
Cardona sent a similar letter to Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott, saying that the Department of Education “stands with” the educators who are “working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction.”
Abbott has been involved in a legal battle with local districts that want to defy Abbott’s executive order prohibiting mask mandates and impose their own restrictions on regions and schools.
Governors across the country are continuing to take steps to empower parents to make health-care decisions for their children.
Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Monday giving parents the ability to make decisions about whether their kids wear masks in schools.
He stated, “Right now, some of the greatest frustration is occurring in our K-12 schools, especially around the issue of mask mandates. While local decision-making is important, individual decision-making by a parent on issues regarding the health and well-being of their child is the most important.”
“No one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent. I am signing an executive order today that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate if either a school board or health board enacts one over a district,” he added.
His executive order says, “a student’s parent or guardian shall have the right to opt out of any order or requirement for a student in kindergarten through twelfth-grade to wear a face covering at school, on a school bus, or at school functions, by affirmatively notifying in writing the local education agency or personnel at the student’s school.”