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DeSantis says he's against a plan to shift money from school districts over mask mandates

Courtesy Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated Friday he does not support a House proposal that would shift $200 million away from 12 school districts that required students to wear masks last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House included the proposal in a budget plan that it will take up during a floor session Tuesday.

The proposal would redirect the $200 million to districts that did not require students to wear masks.

DeSantis and Republican lawmakers made a series of moves last year to block school mask mandates.

DeSantis said Friday that he would rather allow lawsuits against the districts instead of shifting away the money.

“My view would be let’s not do that. But what you could do is say any parent whose kid was illegally force-masked this (school) year in Florida in any of those districts, they should have the right to sue if their kids have any negative effects of it, if they have speech problems, if they have emotional problems, physical problems,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Jackson County.

“They (school districts) flouted the law and they should be liable for the consequences of their actions.”

The House proposal — dubbed the “Putting Parents First Adjustment” — would reduce money going to the school districts in Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Sarasota and Volusia counties.

The Senate has not proposed shifting money away from the districts.

House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, said Wednesday that the 12 school districts would still receive more money next year than during the current year, but the increases would be trimmed.

Fine said lawmakers have the “power of the purse” to carry out decisions.

“This is the only vehicle that we as a legislature have in any area, whether it’s education or otherwise, to hold folks accountable for following the policy decisions that we here have made,” Fine said.

“I don’t think it’s punitive. I think it’s holding people accountable, and I think it is saying that we expect the laws that we pass to be followed by all of our school districts.”

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