Fear of schools’ face mask mandates and not COVID surge prompts Florida board of education’s Friday morning emergency meeting

If opponents of face mask mandates at public schools get their way, Florida taxpayers could end up footing the bill for more private school education. The latest measure on the agenda of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is an effort to provide scholarships to parents who oppose face masks and have kids in districts that require them.

After the School Board of Broward County voted to implement a face mask mandate, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued his July 30 executive order to ban the policy at all of the state’s public schools. Despite this and threats of losing state funding, the challenges of the new surge in COVID cases are prompting some school districts to push for the mandates.

The State Board of Education’s response was to schedule an emergency meeting at 11 a.m., on Friday to consider emergency rules. The priority won’t be the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to deal with the new Delta variant’s threat of infection to both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated — but to protect “parents’ freedom to choose.”

“It is abundantly clear that the task set before you by Governor DeSantis is nothing more than an attempt to take advantage of our current public health crisis by siphoning even more money away from our public schools,” Florida Sen. Gary Farmer wrote in a letter Thursday to Florida’s Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran.

According to the emergency meeting notice, some of the State Board of Education members agreed that “the threat” of face mask mandates at schools presented “the potential for student learning loss and educational disruption with schools starting next week,” and “an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare of students.”

Some of the members want to provide parents with a choice through the state’s Hope Scholarship program, which offers victims of bullying in public schools access to private education. Farmer, a Democrat from Lighthouse Point, argues that if the State Board of Education creates such a state program during the emergency meeting it would be “unconstitutional and illegal.”

The State Board of Education’s seven members are Tom Grady, the chair; Benjamin Gibson, the vice-chair; Monesia Brown, Marva Johnson, Parkland victim’s father Ryan Petty, Andy Tuck, and Joe York.

The meeting is open to the public via conference call at 1-800-367-2403 with the confirmation code 8000177 and is scheduled to air on the Florida Channel.

Some of the laws on the agenda:

Florida Administrative Code section 6AER21-01: Florida Administrative Code section 6AER21-02:Florida Statute 1002.40 Hope Scholarship Program:

Related social media

Thank you @GovRonDeSantis for standing up for parental choice! Looking forward to the State Board of Education, @richardcorcoran, and @EducationFL taking the necessary steps to implement this Executive Order. https://t.co/CGaHygSMK8

— Ben Gibson (@BenGibson) July 31, 2021

FLDOE is using the Covid crisis as yet another opportunity to defund neighborhood public schools & promote unaccountable private & religious schools. Everyone’s top concern should be protecting the safety & wellbeing of Florida’s students, not playing politics w/school funding.

— Andrew Spar (@andrewsparfea) August 5, 2021

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