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Florida Department of Education hits school board members of two school districts in the pocketbook, withholding funds over mask mandates

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UPDATE: 8/31/21 11:05 a.m. EST

The Blaze reached out to DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw via text for clarification about whether the amount of funding being withheld is equal to the monthly salary of the whole board in each county or only of those members who voted for the mask mandates. "The whole school board," she responded.

Orders earlier this month warned that if they not come into compliance, "the Florida Department of Education is directed to begin withholding from state funds, on a monthly basis, an amount equal to 1/12 of the total annual compensation of the school board, as an initial step."

Original story below:

The Florida Department of Education is targeting two Sunshine State school districts by withholding funding in retaliation for the districts' mask mandates.

"Today, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran announced that the Florida Department of Education has withheld the monthly school board member salaries in Alachua and Broward County, as directed by the State Board of Education," according to a news release. "The withholding of funds will continue monthly until each school board complies with state law and rule."

Alachua County Public Schools and Broward County Public Schools each have school mask policies that do not allow parents to simply opt out, but instead require some sort of health care provider to support the opt-out request.

The mask policies run afoul of a Florida Department of Health emergency rule, according to the news release. That rule conforms to an executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A news release earlier this month noted that if the districts failed to comply, "the Florida Department of Education will then begin to withhold from state funds, on a monthly basis, an amount equal to 1/12 of the total annual compensation of the school board members who voted to impose the unlawful mask mandates until each district demonstrates compliance."

Last week, a judge ruled that Florida school districts can levy mask mandates on students, according to the New York Times, which noted that the judge issued an injunction barring the education department from hitting school boards with punishments.

"The judge had said he would issue his order this week, but that hasn't happened yet, possibly providing a window for the state to take this action," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The outlet reported that Department of Education spokesperson Jared Ochs said in a statement Monday: "Unlike several school districts in this state, our Department plans on continuing to follow the rule of law until such time as the Court issues its ruling, and subsequent to that ruling, we plan on immediately appealing this decision ... from which we will seek to stay the ruling,"

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