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Florida Board Of Education Votes To Sanction Some School Districts, Including Broward & Miami-Dade, Over Mask Policies

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Eight school districts, including Miami-Dade and Broward, could face funding cutbacks to their school board member's salaries for their continued efforts on student masking.

"We said all along are seeing no impact on enforced masking in schools," said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during Thursday's State Board Of Education emergency meeting.

The board unanimously backed the commissioner to sanction districts that had no opt-out provisions for their mask mandates, giving them 48 hours to comply with the state orders before penalties are imposed.

Districts such as Broward and Miami-Dade typically require medical documentation before parents can opt out of the masking rules on behalf of their children.

Both districts said they want stricter rules to prevent the spread of the virus.

"Since August, we lost 14 staff members and one student and many more have been hospitalized. We know masks reduce viral spread," said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

"Although we are challenging the rule – our plan is to comply in the near future once the data enables us to do so in a manner that will protect the health and safety of our students, teachers and other employees," said Broward Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright.

During the meeting, Cartwright announced that Broward County Public Schools and four other districts filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the state's emergency rules surrounding COVID-19.

The decision has drawn immediate attention.

United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats released the following statement regarding the sanctions:

"We stand in support of Superintendent Carvalho as he defends the position to protect the safety and wellbeing of our M-DCPS students, faculty, and staff.  The sanctions to defund schools by the FLDOE and governor are both negligent and irresponsible and impede upon our ability to provide for the safety of our students, teachers, and staff. These actions also infringe on the rights of our locally elected school board to comply with their constitutional obligation to provide a safe learning environment for our children.  This is yet another reminder to our community that our state government is disconnected from our community needs and our local conditions as we shield children from COVID."

Dr. Rosalind Osgood, chair of the Broward County School Board, said "We believe that we have been and still are within the guidelines of the constitution, which gives local school boards the authority to make decisions about the districts."

Corcoran says the federal grant program that's helping to make up for penalties already imposed by the state "encourages school districts to violate Florida law." The penalties that were imposed Thursday include $420,000 in Broward, which is the amount of their federal grant awards.

"The state does not have the right to withhold money that's due to school districts, especially when you're in a pandemic and you need the additional funds," said Osgood.

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