DeSantis Backs Down on Threat to Cut School Officials Pay Over Mask Mandates

DeSantis Backs Down on Threat to Cut School Officials Pay Over Mask Mandates ron desantis speaks to press Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference on Aug. 05, 2021, in Hialeah, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 13 August 2021 09:16 AM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration is backing away from a threat to withhold school officials' salaries if they continue to defy his executive order prohibiting mask mandates.

On Monday, a statement from DeSantis' office said: "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."

But now, DeSantis' office acknowledges the state has no control over local employees' pay, the Miami Herald reported.

And Christina Pushaw, the governor's press secretary, is calling on "activist, anti-science school board members" to cut their own pay if the state hits their districts with financial sanctions.

"Those officials should own their decision — and that means owning the consequences of their decisions rather than demanding students, teachers, and school staff to foot the bill for their potential grandstanding," she said in a statement to the Herald.

"The issue is that … superintendents and school board members are not state employees. Therefore, the only way the state could tailor the financial penalty would be to withhold an amount of funding equal to their salaries.

"In that event, it is possible that the officials who are violating the law could decide to take funding from other needs in their own district, in order to pay themselves salaries. It wouldn't be fair to the students, but it would technically be possible."

The Herald reported that Alachua County and Broward County public schools both have imposed masking mandates and require a doctor's note to opt out of them.

Politico reported most Florida school districts have made it optional for students to wear masks.

Meanwhile, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he may issue financial penalties against Alachua and Broward public schools if they refuse to amend their masking policies.

He maintained that requiring a note from a doctor is "inconsistent" with state rules that give parents the power to opt their kids out of a mask mandate.

According to the Herald, Alachua public schools would be hit with a $300,000 reduction to its $537 million budget for the 2021-22 school year if the state cuts the money.

And Broward County schools could see a $700,000 loss from its $2.6 billion budget.