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Florida Withholds Funding From School Districts Over Mask Mandates

The state of Florida has withheld funding from two school districts over their coronavirus mask mandates, flouting threats from White House officials who warned that such penalties would violate federal law.

School officials in Alachua and Broward counties on Wednesday said the state docked school board salaries and overall funding in amounts equal to federal aid packages meant to blunt the state’s sanctions on mask requirements. This month, more than $164,000 was withheld from the Alachua school district and more than $455,000 was withheld from Broward.

The penalties are the latest development in an ongoing feud between the White House and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration over coronavirus regulations. DeSantis is eyeing a possible 2024 presidential run and is one of several GOP governors who have moved to ban mask mandates.

The Florida State Board of Education earlier this month approved plans to withhold a month’s salary from school board members in districts with classroom mask requirements and reduce overall funding if those counties receive a federal grant intended to offset the state’s fines.

The announcements come days after the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Florida warning that deducting money from districts that received the grant would violate federal law. The letter added that the federal government “is prepared to initiate enforcement action to stop these impermissible state actions.”

Florida’s ban on classroom mask mandates quickly sparked legal challenges. A Leon County judge ruled over the summer that DeSantis did not have authority to ban local school mask mandates under Florida’s Parents Bill of Rights law. The governor appealed, and the 1st District Court of Appeal issued a stay allowing the ban on mandates to remain while the merits of the case are considered.

The state education department didn’t immediately comment. The federal education department didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

School Mask Mandates at a Glance

  • As of Sept. 29, nine states have banned school districts from setting universal mask mandates. Those bans are in effect in five states. In the remaining four states, mask mandate bans have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools.
    State-wide mask policies may include exemptions for certain districts, schools, groups, or individuals.









    Click the information icon () for key details about a state’s mask policy.

  • MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT

    MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED

    1. Arizona


    On Sept. 27, a judge in Arizona blocked the state laws banning mask mandates that were set to take effect on Sept. 29.

    2. Arkansas


    In Arkansas, a judge paused the state law that prohibits local officials from setting mask mandates, meaning school districts can—at least for now—set their own local mask requirements.

    3. Iowa


    On Sept. 13, a federal judge ordered Iowa to halt enforcement of its law banning mask mandates in schools. The order was later extended.

    4. South Carolina


    On Sept. 28, a federal judge suspended South Carolina from enforcing the rule that banned school districts from requiring masks for students.


    1. California


    2. Connecticut


    3. Delaware


    4. District of Columbia


    5. Hawaii


    6. Illinois


    7. Louisiana


    8. Maryland

    9. Massachusetts


    On Oct. 26, Massachusetts extended the mask requirement through Jan. 15. On Sept. 27, Massachusetts said schools can apply for a waiver from the face covering rules if 80% of their students and staff have been vaccinated. If a school reaches the 80% threshold, unvaccinated students and employees are still required to wear masks.


    10. Nevada


    11. New Jersey


    12. New Mexico


    13. Oregon


    14. Pennsylvania


    15. Rhode Island


    16. Virginia


    17. Washington




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