SURFSIDE, Fla. – On the same day that Broward County’s public school board voted to keep its mask mandate for the start of the school year next week, Gov. Ron DeSantis was in South Florida strongly defending his stance that parents — not districts — should be making the decisions about face coverings for kids.
DeSantis was in Surfside to hand out COVID relief bonus checks to first responders who worked at the condo collapse site, but as is the case at most of his appearances, he was asked about the masks.
“You’re free to recommend, you can encourage whatever you want, but I just don’t think you can override the rights and decisions of the parents,” DeSantis said, speaking before Broward’s decision.
Parents’ choice is the education health policy the governor ordered last month.
His layered argument against forced masking in class includes a low statistical risk of dangerously severe COVID-19 cases in children and unstudied concerns that masks could inhibit the ability to learn.
“The airflow, some of the other things with learning, particularly for younger grades when learning phonics and other stuff — so there is a whole host of issues,” he said.
The first Florida districts that defied orders received letters from the state education commissioner opening investigations and threatening the salaries of the board and superintendents.
On Tuesday, the White House suggested that federal COVID relief funding could replace financial consequences levied by the state.
“The Department of Education is looking at options,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “I’m not making a threat of withholding. Certainly, we don’t want to hurt the people of Florida. But we are looking at a range of options.”