DeSantis Raises Stakes in Fight Over Mask Mandates

Florida governor threatens to withhold pay of superintendents, board members who defy ban
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2021 6:31 AM CDT
DeSantis Raises Stakes in Fight Over Mask Mandates
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is ratcheting up his stance against face-mask mandates with a controversial new threat. In a statement released to CBS Miami, DeSantis said the state might withhold the pay of school superintendents and school board members who require their students to wear masks. The governor outlawed such mandates last month, but a number of school districts are defying his ban, including Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, and Leon counties, per the Tallahassee Democrat. The newspaper notes that it wasn't clear whether the state had the legal authority to withhold salaries. DeSantis, for his part, says he wants parents to decide whether their children should have to wear masks. The CDC recently revised its guidelines to recommend masks for everyone in grades K-12.

"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," says the statement from the governor's office. At least two superintendents responded defiantly. "At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck," said Miami-Dade's Alberto Carvalhoa. While in Leon, superintendent Rocky Hanna said that "you can't put a price tag on someone's life, including my salary." COVID cases are surging in the state. Last week, the state logged more than 134,000 new cases, more than in any seven-day stretch since the pandemic began, per CNN. (In Texas, some districts are similarly defying their governor and instituting mask mandates.)

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