DOE Seeks to Block Florida’s Penalties on School Mask Mandates

DOE Seeks to Block Florida’s Penalties on School Mask Mandates

The Department of Education has urged an administrative judge to block Florida from withholding federal funds from two school districts for implementing mask mandates, Axios reported.

The department filed a complaint Thursday with the agency’s Office of Administrative Law Judges and seeks a cease-and-desist order against the state of Florida, Axios reported.

“The Florida Department of Education has unlawfully — and explicitly — reduced the amount of state aid provided to Florida school districts based on their receipt of federal funds,” according to the complaint.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in July issued an executive order barring school mask mandates. The Republican governor has said parents should decide if their children wear masks.

The DOE’s complaint alleges the state slashed funding to districts “as part of a broader effort to deter those districts from implementing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Axios reported.

The DOE announced in late September that it had reimbursed the Alachua County school district nearly $148,000 — the amount the state government withheld in August.

School officials with Alachua and Broward counties told the DOE that the Florida Department of Education withheld monthly state aid.

Orlando Weekly reported that eight school boards face state financial penalties because of decisions to enact mask mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although several of the districts have walked back or dropped mask requirements.

Miami-Dade officials last week said the mask mandate for students could be eased by the end of the month as local rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to fall.

DeSantis has been an opponent of mask mandates and President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

DeSantis and the state of Florida on Thursday sued Biden, NASA, and other government agencies over the “unlawful” COVID-19 vaccine mandates that require federal contractors to get vaccinated, and “threaten” the state’s economy.

Biden early last month announced plans to impose vaccine mandates on federal employees and businesses with 100 or more employees. Unvaccinated workers must get tested regularly.

DeSantis last week said he will call together a special session of the Florida legislature to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates on businesses.

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