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Miami-Dade Parents Upset Over Legislation That Would Financially Punish Schools For Defying DeSantis' Anti-Mask Rules

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A group of Miami-Dade County public school parents voiced their outrage on Friday over pending legislation that would take away tens of millions of dollars from the district's budget.

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools District, along with the Broward County Public Schools District, were among 12 across the state that defied the state's ban on mask mandates and required students to wear masks in school.

On Wednesday, the state's House passed a $105 billion budget which includes a measure, supported by Governor Ron DeSantis, that would divert $200 million from the districts that defied his order.

Miami-Dade could lose $72 million, and the stripped funding would be spread among the state's other districts. On Thursday, the state Senate passed a nearly $109 billion spending plan, but it would not punish the districts.

"I was worried that my peers were not being responsible they're not wearing their mask and I didn't want to get sick unnecessarily," Olivia

Martin-Johnson, a M-DCPS High School student recalls how scary the possibility of contracting COVID-19 was when the pandemic started.

"My dad is also a healthcare worker and so I didn't want to put my peers at risk."

She felt she had a duty to protect those around her. That's why she's joining a coalition of parents, teachers, and community members came to M-DCPS headquarters to make their voices in opposition heard.

The 12 districts implemented mask mandates at the beginning of the current school year as the delta variant of COVID-19 was still ravaging the state. The districts have since lifted the mandates.

"72 million is a lot of money, we need the funding, as I said, the first things to go are our arts, or sports, or extracurriculars, and I think these subjects are really important for students to find what they're interested in," Martin-Johnson added.

"We call on all of our legislators and the governor to put children's health first," Nancy Lawther, Miami-Dade County Council of PTA/ PTSA.

The proposal to remove $200 million from districts that kept mask mandates is called, "The Putting Parents First Adjustment." Now Miami-Dade and Broward County Schools face the possibility of losing much-needed money thanks to a budget passed in the house, senators passed a different budget, though some believe it's still a big fight ahead.

"You want to cut dollars because schools wanted to keep kids, teachers and parents safe, that's not how we should be governing," State Senator Shevrin Jones.

Jones and Annette Tadeo both democrats vow to stop the adjustment, Tadeo has a child in Miami-Dade schools.

"I think once they make it a priority for the Governor it becomes very difficult to kill it, and that is what we're going to be dealing with," Tadeo explained.

M-DCPS issued a statement to CBS 4 that said, "The potential $71.8 million reduction in funding to Miami-Dade County Public Schools would severely impair this District's ability to deliver instruction and accelerate learning that was lost over the past two years due to the pandemic."

Among the programs that could face cuts are, school safety and security, academic support, exceptional student education, and mental health counseling.

Broward County Public Schools is expected to lose $32 million.

"When we had our face-covering policy there was nothing in statute, and once HB 1 passed during a special session we were fully in compliance of that. "Possible impact of that cut to us would be staffing adjustments," John Sullivan BCPS Legislative Affairs Director said.

Still, supporters of the bill argue they're eyeing gross salaries of $100,000 in administration staff, and school budgets would still increase, but it's still less than what it could have been.

" I do think it is affecting the students more than anything as well as the administrators and staffers that need these protections just as much as we do," Martin-Johnson said.

Lawmakers must work out differences in the budget by March 8 if they want to end their session on time. Once an agreement is reached, the chambers can't vote on it for 72 hours.

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