The Biden administration on Thursday began mailing out checks totally nearly $150,000 to compensate some Florida school board members whose lost part of their salaries this month for standing up to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates.
As part of the “Project SAFE” grant program, the Department of Education said an initial sum of $148,000 has been awarded to Alachua County school board members who voted this summer to require masks be worn inside the county’s schools as Florida was struggling with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the country.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement that these initial reimbursements are meant to show school board members nationwide that the federal government has their back as they work to make schools safer for students and teachers.
The Department of Education also published a notice inviting more districts to apply for “Project SAFE” grants. The Biden Administration has been vocal about its opposition to DeSantis’ crusade against mask and vaccine mandates, and the reimbursement program is the manifestation of the growing enmity.
From NBC News:
In July, DeSantis signed an executive order stating the state would withhold funding from any district that required students to wear masks, and Broward County also voted to defy the order. A state judge upheld the county’s mask mandate a few weeks ago as Florida was setting records for Covid cases impacting children and teens at a higher rate than any other age group.
Despite the judge’s ruling, Florida’s Board of Education, which is led by a staunch DeSantis ally, went ahead with withholding the school board officials’ salaries.
Secretary Cardona has issued a financial threat of his own. He’s told states that block mask mandates at schools that billions of dollars in federal COVID relief funds they’ve received are dependent on a “safe” return to school.
The Department’s Office for Civil Rights is also investigating the state of Texas to determine whether its mask mandate ban violates the rights of students with disabilities who are more likely to suffer a severe case of COVID.