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Two Florida school districts that defied state rules and imposed mask mandates for students have been given 48 hours to reverse their requirement or risk losing state funding equal to the salaries of their school board members.
In July, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill making mask-wearing optional in public schools.
In an order sent Friday to the districts in Alachua and Broward counties, the State Board of Education said that if they do not reverse their mandates in two days, the districts will have to provide Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran the current salaries of each school board member, Yahoo reports.
Yahoo reports the order prohibits the districts from letting the reduction of funds “impact student services or teacher pay” and requires them to report to the state any instance in which they enforce their “unlawful” mask mandate.
The Florida Department of Education said it then will start gradually withholding state funds — equal to 1/12 of the salaries of the board members, monthly — “until each district demonstrates compliance,” according to a statement, per Yahoo.
The state board kept open the possibility of additional sanctions.
Alachua and Broward county districts were the first of five districts in the state to impose mask requirements this month and Friday’s crackdown came after weeks of threats from the education department and DeSantis’ office.
Leaders in both school districts told ABC News Friday that they will not reverse their mask mandates and will take legal action against the state.
“It’s not legal what the governor is doing. We think he has overstepped his purview,” said Dr. Rosalind Osgood, chair of the Broward County School Board, per Yahoo.
Dr. Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, said in a statement that imposing masks in their schools is critical to keeping the schools open.
“Based on the dramatic spike in cases and quarantines in our schools and community, we believe universal masking is absolutely critical to keeping schools open, protecting the health of our students and staff, and limiting the current strain on our local health care system,” Simon said.