Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Sunday that the federal government will ensure school districts can adequately protect children without incurring financial penalties during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The Biden administration will compensate districts for any funding they lost from their home state as a result of trying to protect children’s lives, Cardona said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“We have to do everything in our power to keep [children] safe,” Cardona said.
Cardona sought to reassure school districts after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) threatened to impose penalties on school administration officials if they implement a masking mandate.
Schools “do not have to get the green light for [their] governor to use these funds,” Cardona said.
Leon County School District, which is home to Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee, said later on Sunday that it would join at least five other districts in enforcing masking rules for students and staff.
“I am aware that I am the first elected school superintendent to take such action. I am also aware, fully aware, of the consequences I may suffer,” Leon County schools superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a Facebook video message.
In making the announcement, Hanna directed some of his comments directly toward DeSantis.
“Governor, I do have an obligation to uphold the laws of the state of Florida,” Hanna said. “I have a greater obligation, however, to protect for the health, safety and welfare of the children in Tallahassee and Leon County.”
Last week the White House announced plans to launch civil rights investigations into states that were attempting to deny local school districts the ability to issue rules on masking in order to quell the spread of COVID-19 last week.
“Some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Biden said last Wednesday. “We are not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”