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The Education Department Is Reimbursing School Boards Ron DeSantis Tried To Defund Over Mask Mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference

Last month, Florida’s extremely pro-COVID-19 governor Ron DeSantis was so determined to prevent schools from implementing mask mandates that he threatened to withhold the salaries of any school board members whose districts disobeyed him and required students and/or staff to mask up.

DeSantis warned there would be “financial consequences” for any school board officials who violated the anti-mask-mandate legislation he’d recently signed into law. To which the federal Department of Education responded, “no there won’t.”

Seemingly in direct response to DeSantis’ threats (although other virulently anti-mask governors like Texas’ Greg Abbott could also have had some influence here), the Education Department set up the Project to Support America’s Families and Educators (Project SAFE) grant program.

The program is designed specifically to provide funds to school districts that are being punished by state entities for implementing COVID-19 safety measures like mask mandates and social distancing.

So DeSantis can withhold all the paychecks he wants, and Project SAFE will just reimburse them.

So far only one school district (Alachua [County Public Schools in Florida) has received funds from the program (nearly $150,000), but applications are open to any districts that “adopt and implement strategies to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019” and have incurred a financial penalty because of it.

“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them. We stand with the dedicated educators in Alachua and across the country doing the right thing to protect their school communities,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement (via CNN). “With these grants, we’re making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs. I commend Alachua for protecting its students and educators, and I look forward to working with them to provide students their best year yet.”

(via CNN, image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.