Governor’s Office responds to letter from U.S. Education Secretary to Alachua County Public Schools

Desantis responds to Biden administrations' support of ACPS
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 11:44 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Alachua County School Board’s student mask mandate the U.S. and Florida Education Departments at odds.

The Governor’s Office is pushing back against a letter of solidarity from the U.S. Department of Education to the school district. U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in the letter “I want you to know that the U.S. Department of Education stands with you.”

TRENDING: Social media post sparks mask-wearing in the classroom protest in Downtown Gainesville

Cardona also wrote a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis explaining that federal money from the American Rescue Plan could be used to pay back fines imposed by the state. DeSantis has threatened to reduce funding to school districts instituting masking mandates equal to the salaries of the superintendent and school board members. The letter was also critical of the fact that much of the federal funding for schools has not been allocated by the state.

RELATED STORY: The Department of Education has threatened to withhold funding of school board members

A response from Governor’s Office said the state is giving out the money slowly to school districts to support a multiple-year recovery. It also claims that mask mandates in school are not proven to be effective.

On Tuesday, the Florida Board of Education will meet to discuss Alachua County’s violation of the governor’s order banning mask mandates. Sanctions could follow immediately.

RELATED STORY: Department of Education demands response from ACPS school board members on requiring face masks

Letter sent to Alachua County Public Schools:

Response by the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis:

“It is surprising that the White House would rather spend money on the salaries of superintendents and elected politicians, who don’t believe that parents have a right to choose what’s best for their children, than on Florida’s students, which is what these funds should be used for.

Regarding funding, Florida opened schools for in-person instruction first, with more students in-person and a greater focus on closing achievement gaps in safe learning environments than any other state in the nation last year. Governor DeSantis allocated more than $1.4 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to keep schools open and make sure they could cover their expenses, and Florida school districts also received nearly $700 million from the CARES Act (ESSER I).

Some Florida school districts recently alerted us that they needed to transition to spending from CRRSA Act (ESSER II) funds. The notion that districts need to begin tapping into ARP Act (ESSER III) funds is premature by months, if not longer. Instead, Florida’s school leaders should be commended for making ESSER I funds last through the 2020-2021 school year and managing these resources wisely.

It would be irresponsible to wastefully rush to spend these dollars before they are needed, as these funds are intended to address the full needs of educational recovery over multiple fiscal years.”

Regarding the situation in Alachua:

“It’s clear that Alachua’s school board officials and superintendent are all about politics — not education. It’s a shame that any child would be sent home with an unexcused absence for declining to wear a mask. This is detrimental to kids’ academic, emotional, and social development. That’s why Governor DeSantis signed the EO to protect parents’ rights to choose whether their children wear masks or not. The Alachua superintendent and school board are clearly in violation of the state rules – and they will be subject to consequences if they do not immediately revise their policy to comply with the law.

Education leaders should put kids first, and with outrageous and unlawful policies like this, Alachua is putting kids last.”

Copyright 2021 WCJB. All rights reserved. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.