As the DeSantis administration threatens to strip salaries of local school officials who buck the governor’s masking policy for children, the Biden administration indicated it might step in to restore those paychecks with federal money.
Meanwhile, critics of Gov. Ron DeSantis suggest that if anyone deserves to have his pay docked, it is the governor.
“Our governor has continued to ignore science, and he’s continued to ignore other issues within our state, including the broken unemployment system,” Anna Eskamani, of Orange County, told the Phoenix during a phone interview.
“I think the governor should withhold his salary until every person gets paid their benefits.”
Even outsiders reacting to news about docking pay for local Florida officials led to a Twitter post:
“If I was a Florida resident I would want to withhold @RonDeSantisFL salary until he did something about the rampant spread in his state. #FloridaCovid,” a New Yorker tweeted.
This is not the first time political leaders targeted the pocketbooks of public officials: In 2019, Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orange County threatened to file legislation to force school officials to enforce a state law mandating the teaching of African American history.
The dispute between the Republican governor and local school officials heated up Tuesday as classes resumed in much of the state. DeSantis pushed the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health on Friday to adopt rules giving parents the right to opt out of mask wearing inside school buildings.
Most districts have reluctantly acceded to the rules, requiring kids to wear masks but offering opt-outs at the request of parents or guardians. Broward County school officials voted Tuesday to mandate masks and if necessary challenge DeSantis in court. [The Flagler school district is not going so far as to mandate, even with an opt-out. Reports from schools today indicate that only a minority of students masked up. Top school officials visiting the schools did so unmasked only when properly social distanced, but put on masks in more crowded settings, with one exception (School Board member Janet McDonald, who’s consistently opposed masks). An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the officials went unmasked at all times.]
State Sen. Gary Farmer issued a written statement praising the vote.
“By standing up to the bully in the Governor’s Mansion like they did today, the Broward County School Board set a shining example for our kids. They sent the message that no person no matter how loud or powerful they are, can intimidate them out of standing up for what is right,” Farmer wrote.
“I am sure that after this the governor will lash out in anger as he usually does,” he continued, adding: “The governor has no authority to enforce his dangerous and politically motivated orders, and I am confident that the orders and any retaliatory action that he may take will not hold up in court.
Districts in Alachua and Leon Counties plan to require doctor notes to qualify for an opt-out.
In a letter to policymakers in those counties, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran viewed that as insufficient deference to parental autonomy. He cited their “significant neglect” in responding to the new rules and said he was opening a formal investigation into the two districts.
“I an demanding that you provide a written response by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11, documenting how your district is complying” with the rules. “Any failure to adequately document and substantiate full compliance with this rule will result in sanctions permitted under law,” he wrote.
“Depending on the facts presented, I may recommend to the State Board of Education that the department withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for the superintendent and all the members of the school board.”
Asked about that possible sanction during a White House press briefing, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki praised “the courage and boldness” of local officials resisting the governor’s policy.
Psaki noted that federal American Rescue Plan money intended to help Florida schools respond to COVID remains largely unspent by state officials.
“The question is, why not? And those can be used to cover expenses that come up in this period of time. They’re federal funds and they’re under federal discretion, so they just need to be distributed to these schools. We’re looking into what’s possible,” she said.
“Certainly, paying for salaries is a part of that — or it could be a part of that and could cover those needs for these officials,” Psaki said.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, a candidate in the 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary, praised the offer.
“My office and I have been working with the White House to find ways to support school districts that have had their funding threatened by our governor’s unconstitutional effort to prohibit them from following public health guidelines,” Fried said in a written statement.
U.S. House member Charlie Crist, also in the primary, remarked about the development on Twitter.
“Our governor is embarrassing us. Our president is leading us. Help is on the way Florida. I’m so grateful to President Biden and the local leaders standing strong against Gov DeSantis’ tyranny and disinformation,” Crist wrote.
Democrats in the Florida Senate, meanwhile, offered to set up a GoFundMe account.
“If the governor chooses to defund public education and withhold salaries from educators as punishment for protecting students’ health and safety, we will fill the gap to support them in this fight,” caucus leader Lauren Book, also from Broward County, said in a written statement.
“Masks work, and locally elected leaders have a right to apply CDC guidance to keep kids safe at school. We stand with school leaders across the state who refuse to let our children become political pawns in the governor’s partisan game,” Senator Janet Cruz of Hillsborough County said.
The average salary for school superintendents in Florida is $163,532, according to Department of Education records for 2020-21.
That’s higher than DeSantis’ salary of $134,181, according to current data from the state.
Overall, average superintendent salaries in 2020-21 range from $65,534 in Glades school district in southwest Florida to $374,365 for Miami-Dade. In between, Alachua’s average superintendent salary is $160,000 and Leon County’s is $148,346.
Education Commissioner Corcoran’s salary is listed as $284,280, in state data.
In Miami-Dade County, where schools will open on Aug. 23, officials were also dubious about the governor’s policy but have yet to adopt a policy.
Carvalho did release a written statement to the local CBS News affiliate.
“We have established a process that requires consultation with experts in the areas of public health and medicine. We will follow this process, which has served us well, and then make a final decision. At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck; a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” Carvalho said.
He also remarked Tuesday on Twitter: “Threat-laced humiliation has not served and will not serve humanity well.”
Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, decried the threats.
“Florida school board members make decisions every day in the best interests of their students, and we reject the implication that decisions may be made on anything other than that. Board members to not make decisions regarding public health lightly, and they will continue to make the decision that they believe is right for their students, staff, schools, and their local communities,” Messina said in a telephone interview.
“It has nothing to do with their salaries.”
Leon County’s policy mandates masks indoors for kids in Pre-K through 8th grade “unless otherwise noted by a physician or a psychologist that the child has a health condition, and there is a health reason as to why they really should not be wearing a mask in school,” Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced on Monday.
He said he planned to revisit the matter before Labor Day.
Hanna said he feared that a student would wind up in the hospital or dead from COVID.
“If there’s an out and I didn’t take the out, and I didn’t do what was best for children here in Tallahassee and Leon County, that’s on me.”
During her White House briefing, Psaki reiterated a point President Biden has made before in reference to DeSantis.
“If you’re not interested in following the public health guidelines, to protect the lives of people in your state, to give parents some comfort as they’re sending their kids to school — schools are opening in Florida this week, I know, in many parts of Florida — then get out of the way and let local officials do their job to keep students safe. This is serious and we’re talking about people’s lives,” she said.
–Michael Moline, Florida Phoenix
Here’s a list from the Department of Education showing average superintendent salaries from 2020-21:
|DISTRICT||2020-21 SUPERINTENDENT AVERAGE SALARY|
Repubs. U get what u vote for. You vote for a mindless person u get mindless results. A weak Trump puppet. I suspect a large increase in covid cases about 2 was. from now. He is standing on his decision, let us stand at the polls and vote all the Repubs out of office. We can but will we?
The best and brightest that Yale and Harvard have to offer???? LOL>
Marion Manley says
Disappointed with our “ leadership “
Masks would be a help . It worked last year ! Why not at least try it on a voluntary basis .
With Duh Santis being so adamant about not wearing masks for protection, I think it only right that this BS artist visit hospitals, specifically the Covid Wards. He should not wear a mask, no gloves, and approach those on a ventilator and give them a hug. Of course, we all know that this worthless loser and coward won’t do anything of the sort. And now to threaten the salaries of those who are protecting the best interests of children; something that as a “leader of the people” (and I mean this in the least possible manner), he should be doing. I have said it many times, and I say it again: Republican politicians are absolutely only in it for themselves; none of them give a damn about the people they are supposed to represent. We see this in our own backyard, and we see it throughout the country. It’s an absolute disgrace that intelligent citizens put up with this childish behavior, especially at our expense. This dirtbag is really showing us what his true colors are; and it’s all about him. Nothing else matters. He needs to be gone!!
Our governor is doing a great job! He is letting the people of Florida keeping there freedom. All he is saying is it should be left up to the child’s parent and there is nothing wrong with that. You guys want to mandate the mask policy and that’s what he saying is wrong. You people need to stop listening to the CDC and Fauci and do some of your own research. Why don’t you just keep an open mind and look at other resources other then the CDC website.
I think I should have the freedom to drink and drive, to not wear a shirt and shoes into a business, to not wear a seat belt, to not go thru TSA, to smoke inside, to drive faster than the speed limit….
…I could go on…..if you want me to.
But yet that same parent happily complies with the dress code and send their kid to school with a crisp collared color specific polo shirt and tan pants with no hesitation or complaint as to their freedoms. What’s the difference? Why don’t we parents have the freedom to send our kids to school in any appropriate attire?
Other sources of info? You mean like Facebook? Qanon ? Fake fox news? No thank you, I’ll stick with the real scientists like Dr Fauci and credible websites like the CDC.
By the way, DuhSantis has to be one of the worst governors this state has had in a long time.
Could be that Fauci and the CDC are Medical Experts, while DUH Santis has no clue what he’s talking about!! Forget the open mind; start looking at the FACTS!!
Republicans: ‘I have no sense of collective responsibility and a poor grasp of both history and science.”I will never encourage my constituents to follow expert medical advice and make sound decisions to benefit themselves for the greater good of the country, because that would be politically unpopular’.
I don’t understand the logic over banning mask from schools , who on their right mind would think this is Ok ? Republicans
Don’t worry Desantis, Trump has got your back. Like he did when he walked your buddies down to the capitol and stood shoulder to shoulder with them against the police.
David Schaefer says
Thank you sir…..
The number one job of school administrators is to provide for the safety and well-being of the students, staff and community members who are on school campuses. This has to happen before learning can happen.
I can’t recall our Flagler Superintendent’s comments on the district’s plans (if they have any – or are they wining it). Did she delegate this away?
Ray W. says
When I first started as a prosecutor in Sarasota County, a senior prosecutor beckoned me into his office to tell a story about my father, couching the story as something I needed to know. Claude Kirk, Florida’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, had wanted Sarasota County’s elected sheriff to be prosecuted for an imagined crime, because the sheriff was a political enemy. Frank Schaub, the elected State Attorney for the 12th Circuit, had refused to charge the sheriff, so Kirk invoked his authority under Florida’s old constitution (Florida revamped its constitution in 1968 and again in 1972) and ordered my father to travel to Sarasota and take over the desired politically-motivated prosecution. According to the senior prosecutor, after my father and one of his investigators spent significant time reviewing the evidence and interviewing witnesses under oath, my father decided to decline the hoped-for prosecution. The senior prosecutor said he was in the room when my father called Kirk to tell him of his decision, so the senior prosecutor could only hear one side of the conversation. I was told that after my father talked of the reasons for his decision, there was a pause as Kirk spoke. My father responded by stating that he was calling a press conference in 30 minutes at which he would tell the reporters one of two things: Either he would state that after fully investigating the case, he had decided to decline to prosecute the sheriff. Or, he would state that after fully investigating the case, he had told Kirk he had decided to decline to prosecute the sheriff and that Kirk had removed him from office. Either way, he was not prosecuting the sheriff. And, “by the way, governor, F*** you!” The senior prosecutor said my father then hung up on the governor.
My father confirmed the story, but softly denied using the F-word. He then told of Kirk ordering the Chancellor of the Exchequer (he said that was the title of a government position in Florida at that time) to withhold my father’s paychecks. According to my father, eventually, the legislature met and passed a veto-proof bill to pay my father the back salary. I remember being in the family driveway one summer day when my father came home. He got out of the station wagon and showed me and most of my siblings a check for over $5000, which was more money than I could imagine at 11 years of age in 1968, at a time when elected prosecutors were paid $16,000 per year and could maintain a separate civil practice to supplement their incomes. With the possibility of Kirk engaging in further punitive actions and even being reelected in 1970 (he wasn’t), my father resigned his position and went into private practice, though I find it plausible that seven rapidly growing children, two already in prep school, also had something to do with the decision.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. It very well may be that one could turn over any random rock and find a vindictive Republican governor underneath.
Vote hom out of office. Vote all repubs out of office.
Is DeathSantis a Socialist now???????????????????????
Fed up says
If Governor DeSantis wishes to risk the lives of our children, school staff, and families while threatening the livelihood of those whose job it is to ensure the safety and education of our students, he is no leader. This is purely self service as he wishes to garner more votes for a future election, the safety of Floridian citizens be damned. This man has no place in public leadership.
Those that choose to wear masks can. There is nothing stopping them.
Do you also believe in fairy tale for example that children get sick from wearing a mask? The end of this pandemic can only happened if all the staff and all the students are wearing a mask. They did it last school year and they are still well and alive. Remember this is now the pandemic of the un-masked.
Grandma k says
Top school officials visited the schools in Flagler County un masked. What does that tell you
Districts can do whatever they want, as long as it’s exactly what Desanti say. That’s freedom? That’s ‘Merica. It’s not a dictatorship at all!!
This notion on Constitutionally protected freedoms is hogwash! Everyone should do what the government tells them to do. Let them worry about what’s best for you. How dare you people want to make your own medical decisions.
Does that include abortion and birth control?
Its a Pandemic Pancho go back to sleep
DeSantis is a “DISGRACE” to the state of Florida.
He may think he represents the majority here, but I don’t think he does. He is constantly trying to dictate his dangerous ideals on the state of Florida. Not only does he refuse to help enforce CDC guidelines, he fights everyone who is trying to help the people of Florida, in the name of “Freedom”. He fired the one person who was sincerely trying to inform people of the track of Corona Virus in the state, and is currently prosecuting her for telling the truth. He created the worst Red Tide in history by ordering the pumping of millions of gallons of toxic water into Tampa Bay, but denies any responsibility. He is currently trying to undermine the voters decision, a state constitutional amendment, to limit gambling in the state. I could go on, but I am so tired of Republicans efforts to rule the country under the cloth of “Freedom”.
Let’s hope the people who are sending their kids back to school that they take the advice of their doctors and not DUMB politicians. I’ve not visited one doctor who hasn’t asked if I’ve been vaccinated or when you go into their office you must wear a mask. Follow the advice of your doctor.
To paraphrase the President, if you refuse to help Governor, at least get out of the way.
Sheila Zinkerman says
Me and Bobby McGee, Kris Kristofferson, Fred Foster 1969
All the talk about individual freedom during the pandemic by DeSantis and others reminds me of some lyrics of the Kristofferson, Foster song:
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, it ain’t nothin’ honey, if it ain’t free…”
Nothin’! That’s what unmasked, unvaccinated by choice individuals have given to America whose citizens are fighting to end this fourth wave of Delta by complying with CDC and other guidelines.
Many individuals speak of their “individual” freedoms to justify their bad citizenship behavior by refusing to adhere to safety guidelines during the pandemic. However, there is no “individual” in a pandemic; only “together.” Nothin’, it ain’t nothin’ honey, if it ain’t free…” for everyone. For example: masked, vaccinated, immune, good citizens want freedom from harm; from roving Delta vectors who refuse to be vaccinated or wear a mask. These citizen-vectors choose to exercise their “individual” freedoms “together” as a group; either remaining healthy, infecting others, getting sick, recovering, or dieing together. For them, there really is nothin’ left to lose.
Most of us know that vaccines and masks work, but not 100%. That’s why we need more individuals, together, masking up indoors and getting vaccinated. It may help build character and respect between one another. And that’s somethin’.