$ 878,000 returned to school districts now in compliance with state masking law

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – The state of Florida officially returned $ 878,000 that it had withheld from eight local school districts for implementing non-parental mask mandates earlier in the school year.

A total of $ 309,000 in school board member salaries was withheld, along with an additional $ 568,000, after some school boards approached the federal government to make up for lost funds.

Jackie Johnson, public information officer for the Alachua County School District, told us the district did not expect the state to reimburse the money.

“We received a check from the federal government, but hadn’t cashed it yet when we learned the money was being refunded by the state, so we just sent the check back to the federal government,” said Johnson.

But the education ministry said it was still part of the plan.

In an October letter to the US Department of Education, the Florida education commissioner said the money would be refunded once districts were brought into compliance.

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“We are pleased that these districts have finally recognized that parents have the right to make personal and private decisions about the health care and education of their children. The Department will continue to ensure that these rights are protected, ”FDOE Director of Communications Jared Ochs said in an emailed statement.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said it was just happy to see the conflict resolved.

“I mean at the end of the day, what every school board and superintendent wanted to do in this state was make sure they were protecting every child,” FEA President Andrew Spar said.

The department returning the funds is also avoiding a possible dispute with the federal government, which had scheduled a hearing to determine whether the state’s actions violated federal law.

This will likely be the last in the school masking debate for the foreseeable future, now that state law clearly states that masking is in the hands of parents.

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The statutory clarification came during the November special session of the Florida legislature.

“Our hands are tied,” Johnson said.

And with the potential for a winter peak fueled by the omicron variant, FEA is urging Floridians to do their part to keep students safe.

“But we all have to work together to make it happen,” said Spar.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.


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