Federal Legal Move Targeting Ron DeSantis Considered By Joe Biden

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President Joe Biden has now indicated that his administration is willing to undertake legal action against governors — like Florida Republican Ron DeSantis — who try and block local education officials from imposing mandates to wear face masks in schools. DeSantis has remained fervently opposed to mask mandates for schools, even as his state continues to lead the entire country in average daily COVID-19 hospitalizations. DeSantis recently signed an executive order meant to block mask mandates in schools, but a selection of school districts in Florida have opted to press on with mask mandates anyway. In response, DeSantis and his team have raised punishment possibilities like somehow withholding the salaries of school officials, but these officials are remaining committed to protecting students.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Biden said that his administration was “not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” as the Miami Herald reports. Biden also issued “a new memorandum that directed the U.S. Department of Education to take additional measures to protect students returning to school, including exploring “possible enforcement actions” against governors who want to prevent schools from following federal guidelines,” that outlet adds. Biden said this week that his directions to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona include “using all of his oversight authorities and legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”

As for what exact form which federally connected action might take, the possibility has already been raised of federal funds going to cover the salaries of school leaders whose incomes may be targeted. Biden reiterated this potential, adding that if “a governor wants to cut the pay of a hard-working education leader who requires masks in the classroom, the money from the American Rescue Plan can be used to pay that person’s salary. One hundred percent.” More broadly, Biden also criticized DeSantis and other GOP leaders for their politicization of the fundamental issue of keeping children safe. As the president pointedly put it on Wednesday: “Some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain… Some are even trying to take power away from local educators… They’re setting a dangerous tone.”

DeSantis is not the only Republican governor who’s fervently advocated against basic safety measures targeting COVID-19 — Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has done the same. These so-called leaders are essentially leaving the lives of their constituents in danger to prove a point. What good is so-called “freedom” to someone who died of COVID-19 but could have potentially been saved by those around them wearing masks? That’s what’s at stake here.