Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent Alberto Carvalho publicly put Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on notice this week over the incendiary state leader’s attempt to block school districts in Florida from imposing mandates to wear face masks.
Hospitalizations with COVID-19 have risen quickly and substantially across Florida — and pediatric patients have been among those hospitalized — but even amid the ongoing surge of what’s known as the delta variant of the virus, DeSantis has refused to relent in his opposition to certain basic safety measures. DeSantis and his team have promoted the idea that they could withhold certain state funding — including, specifically, the salaries for superintendents and school board members — in the event of the imposition of a mask mandate, but Carvalho indicated to the governor that he’s not backing down.
School officials in Miami-Dade County had not opted to put a mask mandate in place as of this Tuesday, but other Florida districts have moved forward with at least some form of a face mask policy, so the move seems possible in Miami. Carvalho pointedly commented as follows:
‘We have established a process that requires consultation with experts in the areas of public health and medicine. We will follow this process, which has served us well, and then make a final decision. At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck; a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees.’
The attempt by the governor’s office to use the salaries for local school officials as leverage against basic safety measures targeting COVID-19 is truly appalling. Meanwhile, Carvalho also said that he wanted “to thank the Governor for recognizing that students should not be penalized,” seemingly referencing a recent clarification provided by the governor’s office that the education funding in jeopardy would be salaries for local officials rather than the money used for school operations.
DeSantis had previously outlined in an executive order how state funding could be withheld from school districts if they imposed mask mandates, but there was uncertainty about what funding might even be affected. After Alachua County schools opted to put a mask mandate in place, school district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson indicated to The Washington Post that it wasn’t “known yet what portion, if any, of the $141 million in state funds the district receives could be withheld,” according to the publication’s summary. Despite threats from DeSantis, public schools in Leon County — which includes the Florida state capital of Tallahassee, where DeSantis works — will also have a mask mandate in place when the school year begins, with exceptions allowed only in the event of a note from a doctor or psychologist. Leon County parents are not permitted to opt their children out of the policy on their own.