As judge backs school mask mandates, Broward already docked funding by state

The legal battle will continue, but a judge's order filed Thursday indicates Broward and other districts can in fact require face masks despite Gov. Ron DeSantis' opposition.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The day before a Leon County judge ruled in favor of school districts on face mask mandates last week, the state had already pulled the salaries of Broward County school board members.

Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said the district noticed the funding was taken out Aug. 26. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran didn’t make the announcement until Aug. 30. (He had previously warned it would happen.)

“I’m deeply saddened,” Cartwright said. “All nine of our board member salaries were taken away.”

Meanwhile, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper’s final judgment was officially filed Thursday (and can be seen at the bottom of this page).

Chancellor of Public Schools Jacob Oliva, however, notified school superintendents in an email Thursday that the notice of appeal has been filed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state, so the judge’s order has been “stayed.”

“This ‘stay’ means the Education defendants may resume enforcement of the Health Department rule, with the caveat that enforcement must cease if the stay is lifted,” Oliva wrote in the email.

Initially, Corcoran threatened to pull the salaries of the board members who voted for mask mandates defying the governor’s executive order.

But on Thursday Local 10 News confirmed the salaries of all nine school board members in Broward were pulled. (The board voted 8-1 in favor of its mandate ahead of the start of school last month.)

“These are individuals who are working,” Cartwright said. “They’re working to represent their local community and make a decision that they believe is in the best interest of our students.”

[ALSO SEE: Could schools require COVID vaccines for teachers?]

Each school board member makes close to $47,000 per year.

“It’s very unfortunate the commissioner of education and the governor want to punish us for keeping our children and our employees safe,” said school board member Sarah Leonardi.

Earlier this week, the school board chair denounced the actions.

“We have no been given any due process in this matter,” Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said.

Corcoran says he’s protecting parents’ right to decide, which is DeSantis’ position.

But Broward’s interim superintendent says the mask mandate will stay in place, arguing school infection rates remain low because of the policy.


About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.