DORAL, FL – The Florida Department of Education (DOE) returned $35,395 to Miami-Dade County Public Schools after having withheld money from the district for instituting a mask mandate.
Back in July, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to bar school districts in the state from mandating mask mandates and instead allow parents to decide whether they wanted their children to wear face masks in class or not.
Even though this order was ruled against by a judge in September, the state then implemented rules to require school districts to give parents an opt out option from the mask requirement.
The opt-out option was made available by Miami-Dade Schools since November 10 when former School Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, made the decision citing low rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the county.
However, the state hadn’t returned the money that was withheld as a penalty for imposing the mask mandate to all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, up until now. When the sanction was made effective, the monthly salary of school board members was held back.
A Florida DOE spokesman said the money was reimbursed to all eight school districts, including M-DCPS, that enacted mask mandates earlier this year once the schools came into compliance with the law.
After this action made by Florida’s DOE, the federal Department of Education decided to drop the Cease and Desist complaint it had issued in October arguing the agency “unlawfully withheld state aid”.
“Following the state of Florida returning the withheld funds to local education agencies, the Department withdrew the current Cease and Desist complaint. The (U.S.) Department will continue to assist any state or local education agency to sustain safe in-person learning for all students,” said the U.S. Department of Education to Florida Phoenix.
In total, the DOE returned $877,851 that was withheld from Alachua County, Brevard County, Broward County, Duval County, Leon County, Miami-Dade County, Orange County and Palm Beach County.
The money returned also included any amount of federal grant funds that were awarded to those districts by the Biden administration under the Project SAFE, which was aimed to support districts that had been penalized by the state for creating COVID mitigation strategies.
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