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Ron DeSantis unmasks Florida schools, threatens administrators’ salaries

The governor is defying the CDC, again

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is not messing around on his no mask mandate mandate for his state’s schools.

Last week, the Republican governor signed an executive order saying that Florida school districts may not impose mask mandates.

Yesterday, his office said that if any school districts enact mandates in defiance of this order, the State Board of Education may withhold the salaries of school superintendents and school board members until they rip those mandated masks off and cry uncle.

“The State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law,” the governor’s office said in a statement to the press.

“The vagueness of the order led some to criticize the governor for seemingly threatening to withhold education funds meant to help support children in public schools,” CBS News reported, and this statement was only meant to “clarify” that.

Which is one way of looking at it. Another way would be to observe that while school officials might publicly lament funding to their schools being reduced but mask up students anyway, threatening their paychecks is probably a better way of bringing them to heel.

The Florida governor’s order seemingly came in response to guidance last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all K-12 students should wear masks.

“Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” the agency announced on its website.

DeSantis defying the CDC is getting to be a bit of a habit. He’s done it at least twice during the pandemic, and quite publicly. The first time was deemed a spectacular success by his supporters. The second time at least got out in front of an ongoing debate.

The first act of defiance was to ignore scattershot CDC guidance for vaccine priorities and focus all of Florida’s early efforts on protecting and then vaccinating the state’s senior citizens, even before “essential workers” – a decision that likely saved thousands of lives.

DeSantis made the protect-and-vaccinate-all-the-olds-first call after reading widely and consulting doctors and medical experts. Most fair minded observers have rightly applauded Florida’s results in this matter.

In the other matter, of vaccine passports and less locked-down vacationing in general, DeSantis both issued an executive order that was at odds with the CDC’s general outlook and encouraged his attorney general to sue the agency in federal court to reopen the cruise lines.

When one cruise line, Norwegian, said that it did not want to reopen to passengers without proof of vaccination, a spokesperson for the governor’s office did not humor the cruise line.

“Beginning July 1, Florida law will prohibit vaccine passports. Until then, we expect all government and private entities to abide by the governor’s executive order banning vaccine passports,” DeSantis communications director Taryn Fenske told me in early May.

“Passengers have been able to safely cruise from international ports for months without being required to divulge their COVID vaccination status. As soon as the CDC ends its unconstitutional prohibition on cruises, passengers will be able to do the same from Florida ports,” she added.

When the lawsuit was filed, the Tampa Bay Times reported, “Legal experts say the lawsuit has very little chance of proceeding. The federal government has very broad control to regulate ports of entry and international commerce.”

The experts were wrong. A federal appeals court ruled in late July that Florida had a point and at least temporarily kicked the CDC cruising ban to the curb.

And now, the Florida governor is being defiant on masks on youths in schools. He has his reasons for doing this. He doubts the efficacy of masks to seriously stop the spread of COVID. Transmission to and from children has heretofore been shown to be quite low.

Without weighing in on the nitty gritty of how effective masks are or how effective the Delta strain of COVID will be in attacking the young, let me just say that I hope DeSantis is ultimately right here. It would be great if Florida’s students could finally return to normalcy and not pay a terrible price for it.

MORE: DeSantis signs new school choice law, could make Florida first in nation

IMAGE: NBC 5 News/YouTube

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About the Author
Jeremy founded three of the Real Clear Politics family of websites and has covered subjects ranging from religious trends to space travel to an armed standoff, for hundreds of publications. His books and comic books include The Warm Bucket Brigade: A History of the Vice Presidency, William F. Buckley, and Movie Men. Jeremy graduated from Trinity Western University, where he served as an editor for the Mars Hill newspaper.