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Florida house proposal would pull funding from school districts that defied DeSantis' mask mandate


Last year’s battle over mask mandates in schools continues into this year’s legislative session.

A Florida lawmaker wants to cut $200 million from school districts that enforced student mask mandates, including Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.

While the PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee considering the proposal didn't address it at its meeting Tuesday, school district leaders say they are monitoring the situation closely.

Committee chair Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, proposed taking money away from districts that sparred with Gov. Ron DeSantis and his mask mandate ban.

The money that is equal to the salaries of more than 1,600 district officials would be shifted to other areas, he said.

"A number of school districts intentionally broke the law, but 55 of them did not,” Fine said. “And so we have created an allocation in this budget of $200 million for the 55 school districts. It is being given out based on their FTE counts to reward them for the decisions that they made."

Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis said in a statement that while the proposal is far from becoming a bill, it is distressing.

“However, it is disappointing that anyone would intentionally target school districts who made decisions based on advice from medical professionals to protect the health and welfare of their students and staff,” Davis said. “In Hillsborough County, we absolutely put children and parents first based on our county’s increased COVID-19 positivity rate at that time and the health of our community.”

Sarasota County Schools declined to comment on the proposal, but said the district is watching proceedings.

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Bailey LeFever