Florida drops financial penalties on school districts with mask mandates

Eight school districts, including all three in South Florida, received financial penalties Thursday for violating state rules that say parents must be able to choose whether their kids wear masks.

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Eight school districts, including all three in South Florida, received financial penalties Thursday for violating state rules that say parents must be able to choose whether their kids wear masks.

Eight school districts, including all three in South Florida, received financial penalties Thursday for violating state rules that say parents must be able to choose whether their kids wear masks.

The state Board of Education without discussion unanimously accepted Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s recommendation to impose penalties equal to the monthly salaries of School Board members. In addition, the state was authorized to withhold an amount equal to the federal grants that two districts, Broward and Alachua, received to maintain their mask policies.

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In South Florida, Palm Beach County will lose $27,284, equal to one month’s salaries for its seven School Board members. Miami-Dade, which has nine School Board members, will lose $35,000.

Broward’s penalties are steeper since it received a $421,000 grant from the Biden administration for standing firm on its policies. It’s already lost $70,000, now it will likely lose another $456,000, equal to the grant plus one month’s salaries for School Board members.

Alachua will lose funding equivalent to the $148,000 grant it received, plus another $13,000 for one month of School Board salaries.

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Corcoran said the Biden administration grant “improperly attempts to interfere” with the state managing its education system.

“Education is a state responsibility, not a federal one,” he said. “What we are witnessing is one of the most egregious violations of [state’s rights] in our lifetimes. By their own terms, these grants encourage school districts to violate Florida law.”

The other districts that received penalties were Brevard, Duval, Leon and Orange counties.

Three other school districts — Hillsborough, Indian River and Sarasota — were scheduled to face penalties but have since dropped their mask mandates and were removed from Thursday’s agenda.