The agency that governs public education in the U.S. state of Florida said Tuesday it has withheld funding from two local school districts that require the wearing of masks in classrooms in defiance of the governor’s ban on mask mandates.
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he withheld an amount equal to monthly school board member salaries in Alachua and Broward counties at the request of the State Board of Education, which oversees the state education department.
Governor Ron DeSantis has banned mask mandates, despite a ruling Friday by a Florida state judge that the ban was unconstitutional and could not be enforced.
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said his ruling would not take effect until it is finalized in writing, which is expected by Monday. The governor's office has said the state would appeal the ruling.
DeSantis, a Republican who may run for the U.S. presidency in 2024, had warned for weeks he would financially penalize local school boards. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said he would allocate federal funding to cover any such costs.
Corcoran said funding would continue to be withheld until the districts comply.
Broward County Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said in a statement that its school board believes it is complying with the law and would “continue to mandate masks, knowing the data show they help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.”
The school districts in Broward and Alachua counties were the first of 10 districts to require all students to wear masks unless they had a medical exemption.
Slightly more than half of the nearly 3 million public school students in Florida live in those two districts.
The Associated Press and Reuters provided information for this report.