TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Nikki Fried is asking the federal government to use its power to stop Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Administration from withholding funds from school districts that require masks.
The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to withhold funding from eight school districts that made masks mandatory in classrooms, defying the governor’s order, which barred districts from imposing mask mandates. Board members found school districts in Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties were not in compliance with the governor’s order.
The Board of Education said the districts had “willingly and knowingly violated the rights of students and parents by denying them the option to make personal and private health care and educational decisions for their children.”
The districts have 48 hours to provide documentation that proves they were compliant or their funds could be withheld “in an amount equal to 1/12 of all school board members’ salaries,” per district, Florida Board of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said.
Earlier this year, after the state withheld their funding, the U.S. Department of Education reimbursed Alachua and Broward counties hundreds of thousands of dollars to make up for lost salaries.
“I want you to know that the U.S. Department of Education stands with you,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote in a letter to the superintendents.
Corcoran called the move unconstitutional, a violation of the 10th Amendment and state sovereignty.
“I strongly believe that this federal grant program improperly attempts to interfere with the state board’s authority to manage our state’s educational system,” Corcoran said. “Education is a state responsibility, not a federal one and one given to this board under our state’s constitution. What we are witnessing in these Project SAFE grants is one of the most egregious violations of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Florida sovereignty in our lifetime.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried held a press conference Friday to push the federal government to do more about the issue.
“As if this decision made by DeSantis’ Board of Education yesterday to enact financial sanctions on eight school districts wasn’t extreme enough, they are launching a further political crusade to negate any federal assistance they have or may receive from President Biden’s administration,” Fried said. “I’m calling on the White House and the U.S. Department of Education to use the full weight of the federal government to stop the DeSantis administration from defunding our schools.”