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Education secretary calls to encourage Florida superintendents in battle over masks

WASHINGTON — U.S. Training Secretary Miguel Cardona, with the blessing of the White Home, known as faculty directors in Florida dealing with retaliation for mandating masks with a message, administration officers mentioned Friday: Keep the course.

Cardona spoke to Vickie Cartwright, the interim superintendent for Broward County Public Faculties, and Carlee Simon, the superintendent for Alachua County Public Faculties, in line with the officers.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s one among a number of Republican governors who signed legal guidelines or government orders banning masks mandates, has threatened to withhold state funding equal to the salaries of these superintendents and all faculty board members in Broward and Alachua counties — a six-figure complete in these districts.

Cardona’s calls come days after President Joe Biden signaled that his administration would play a extra aggressive position in defending faculty directors throughout the nation who defy governors who’re attempting to dam native faculty officers from requiring college students to put on masks to forestall the unfold of the coronavirus.

In a speech Wednesday, Biden mentioned he had directed the Training Division to make use of its authorized authority in opposition to these governors, and added that emergency Covid funding within the American Rescue Plan might cowl educators’ salaries if their pay is minimize for requiring masks of their school rooms.

In his conversations with Cartwright and Simon, the 2 officers mentioned, Cardona reiterated that message, underscoring that any misplaced earnings may very well be lined with federal funds which have already been dispersed to high school districts.

Florida Training Commissioner Richard Corcoran mentioned Friday that Broward County and Alachua County faculty board members who voted to impose a masks mandate might begin shedding their month-to-month pay as quickly as subsequent week, except the districts reverse their insurance policies.

“We stand prepared to help any district dealing with repercussions for imposing CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention methods that can defend the well being and security of scholars, educators, and workers,” Cardona mentioned in a press release.

Federal officers have sought to court docket additional defiance from native faculty districts as states face a resurgent pandemic, partly by stressing the administration’s help for such strikes. Biden’s administration has additionally dangled its personal menace of economic penalties that might come together with following anti-mask mandate orders.

Hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated public faculty college students are returning to school rooms regardless of a dramatic spike in infections, notably throughout the southeastern a part of the nation. (A vaccine has not but been approved for emergency use in kids below the age of 12.) Final week, Cardona despatched letters to the eight states — Florida, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah — warning that federal funds are depending on district plans for a secure return to in-person instruction.

If dad and mom, notably these with immunocompromised kids, file complaints with the Training Division’s Workplace of Civil Rights, faculty districts which can be discovered to have failed to supply a secure setting for returning college students might finally face monetary penalties, the 2 officers mentioned.

An Training Division official mentioned any potential complaints and ensuing penalties in opposition to colleges can be reviewed case by case.

“The Workplace for Civil Rights will think about any complaints that they obtain from college students, dad and mom or guardians, and different members of the general public about discrimination in opposition to college students with disabilities, together with different discrimination complaints, whether or not on the state or native stage,” the official mentioned.

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