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Feds Cover Broward School Board Salaries That State Withheld Over Mask Policy

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Amanda Rabines
/
WLRN

The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it is awarding more than $420,000 to the Broward County School Board to cover state financial penalties targeting school board members’ salaries.

The grant is intended to pay for the salaries of eight Broward board members who voted for a student mask mandate that allows exceptions only for medical reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced Aug. 30 that the Florida Department of Education had started to withhold funds from the Alachua and Broward County school districts in amounts equal to the monthly salaries of school board members who voted for mask requirements. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $150,000 to Alachua County to cover the salaries of four school board members.

“With these grants, we’re making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “I commend Broward County for protecting its students and educators, and I look forward to working with them to provide students their best year yet.”

The federal grants are part of an ongoing feud with the state over mask policies in public schools. The Florida Department of Health last week tightened a rule aimed at preventing mask mandates, as Gov. Ron DeSantis argues parents should be able to decide whether children wear masks.

The revised rule says that opting out of mask requirements is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion,” trying to remove wiggle room for districts to require doctor’s notes for exceptions.