Florida school district reverses mask mandate after DeSantis threatens to cut funding

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Florida's second-largest school district on Monday said it will no longer impose a mask mandate after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) threatened to withhold funding from districts that require face coverings.

Driving the news: Broward County Public Schools announced last week that it would require mask use after the CDC issued new guidance recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools this incoming school year, regardless of vaccination status.

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  • DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to the classroom next month.

  • The order also said that "if the State Board of Education determines that a district school board is unwilling or unable to comply with the law, the State Board shall have the authority to, among other things, withhold the transfer of state funds, discretionary grant funds ... and declare the school district ineligible for competitive grants."

  • The order was in response to "several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden Administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks," the governor's office said.

What they're saying: "Broward County Public Schools intends to comply with the governor's latest executive order," the district said in a statement Monday.

  • "Safety remains our highest priority. The district will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools," it continued.

  • "The district will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick."

The big picture: Florida is experiencing a surge of new COVID cases, largely driven by the Delta variant.

  • More than 110,400 cases were reported over the seven-day period ending July 29, up from just over 73,000 the week before.

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