After the Biden administration claimed it would take legal action to combat Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the governor’s office told The Federalist the White House should be exercising better leadership amid the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, rather than intervening in Florida masking affairs.
“It is disappointing that the White House prioritizes undermining Governor DeSantis — and propping up a few local officials who put politics over science — while the Taliban massacres Afghans who assisted the U.S., American citizens are trapped in Afghanistan, and our military technology is falling into the hands of terrorists,” DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said.
On Wednesday, Biden said he instructed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to employ “all of his oversight authorities and legal actions, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators,” something DeSantis isn’t doing.
The Florida Republican signed an executive order on July 30 permitting parents to opt-out of mask mandates instituted in school districts. The Florida Department of Education was notified to enforce the directive, which allows students to sign a document opting out of mask-wearing.
Cardona said in a statement shortly after Biden’s remark that the Education Department would use its civil rights arm to combat such a mask policy. Republican bans on mask mandates, not on masks themselves, have been put forth in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
“These states are needlessly placing students, families, and educators at risk,” wrote Cardona. “Yet in each of these states, there are also educators and others who are taking steps to protect the health and safety of their school communities.”
In a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran last week, Cardona announced that the administration might use federal dollars to compensate state employees in Florida. The move was in response to DeSantis threatening to slash salaries of school board members and administrators who do not adhere to the mask directive.
DeSantis’ office also told The Federalist it has not communicated directly with the president on this matter.
“We have not heard much from Biden on any of this, but he did have time to weigh in on the forced masking of kindergarteners in Broward County by calling the superintendent over the weekend to express his support for breaking Florida law to infringe on parents’ rights,” the governor’s office said.
The most populous school districts in Florida are defying DeSantis’ anti-face-covering order. School boards in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade Counties voted Wednesday in emergency proceedings to mandate masks in schools. The schools, however, are still permitting medical exemptions.
The governor’s office did not indicate what, if any, legal action the state administration might take against counties opposing the order. On Tuesday, the state’s board of education voted to introduce to-be-determined sanctions on two counties mandating mask-wearing: Alachua and Broward.
Leon and Palm Beach counties have also defied the order. More than 600,000 students attend schools in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade Counties.
“Some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Biden said on Wednesday. “Some are even trying to take power away from local educators. … They’re setting a dangerous tone.”
Pushaw called the administration’s reaction a “federal overreach.”
“CDC bureaucrats and their politicized ‘guidance’ — which does not have the force of law — shouldn’t interfere with parents’ rights, which are protected under Florida law,” she said.