DeSantis backpedals on threat to cut pay for school officials who implement mask rules

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Hundreds of students in Florida are already in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 in the classroom, just a few days into the new school year.

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis was forced to backtrack on his threat to punish state school board officials who implement mask requirements in defiance of his July 30 executive order that bans mask mandates in public schools across the state.

Now, DeSantis is saying he won't cut the pay of school superintendents and board members who put mask policies in place.

CBS News Miami reported that the Florida governor never had the authority to cut these officials' pay because they are not state employees.

But a DeSantis spokesperson told the Miami Herald the governor wants them to cut their own pay if they implement mask requirements.

"Those officials should own their decision — and that means owning the consequences of their decisions rather than demanding students, teachers, and school staff to foot the bill for their potential grandstanding," Christina Pushaw, DeSantis' press secretary, told the Miami Herald.

On Aug. 9, DeSantis first made his threat against top school officials, telling a local media outlet that he would "move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law."

But his threats did not deter some local officials, who announced mask requirements in defiance of DeSantis' order, citing the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state and the fact that many students are still ineligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Just days into the new school year, hundreds of students in the state have tested positive for COVID-19.

In Palm Beach County, 51 people have tested positive for COVID-19 just two days after school started, with 440 students now in quarantine thanks to their exposure, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Aug. 12.

Florida is experiencing the second-worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. According to data from the New York Times, an average of 99 out of every 100,000 residents has tested positive for COVID-19 over the last two weeks.

And Florida has the worst hospitalization rate, with an average of 68 out of every 100,000 residents hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the New York Times.

That hasn't stopped DeSantis from ignoring guidance from public health experts to require masks amid this latest outbreak.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.