South Florida schools put on the clock to drop mask mandates

State to dock salaries and hold back funding in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach

Florida's board of education is threatening more penalties for the school districts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, as well as five others in the state.

Florida is set to move forward with docking salaries and withholding funding from local school districts that defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on pandemic mask mandates in classrooms.

The Florida State Board of Education has approved plans to deduct an amount equal to a month’s pay from school board members in eight counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach in South Florida.

Others are Brevard, Orange, Alachua, Duval and Leon counties.

It will also reduce overall funding to the counties if they receive federal grants intended to blunt the state’s fines, as was earlier threatened in Broward.

The penalties would go into effect in 48 hours if the districts do not let parents opt their children out of school mask mandates.

The superintendents and school boards in Broward and Miami-Dade have stood firm in their decisions to keep their COVID-19 rules in place despite the state orders.

They believe they’re complying with state law and meeting their constitutional responsibility when it comes to mask and quarantine policy.

“Tragically since August we lost 14 staff members and one student and many more have been hospitalized,” Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. “We know masks reduce viral spread. Those who say otherwise are misinformed or misguided.”

Earlier this week, Rosalind Osgood, chair of the Broward school board, said: “I’m not willing to risk anybody’s life — student or staff. I wouldn’t do it with my children, my grandchildren, or myself.”

About the Authors:

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.