DeSantis Restores Funding for Rogue School Districts

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) restored the standard amount of funding for 12 school districts that defied state law and imposed mask mandates during the last school year. The districts were previously ineligible for approximately $200 million across all 12 districts.

DeSantis directed the newly minted Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. to reward the schools with the standard amount of funding that the other districts in Florida were set to receive.

“Accordingly, as Governor, I direct the Department of Education to implement the Florida School Recognition Program consistent with the reading of the language, which is to reward eligible schools for their achievements, as districts’ actions have no bearing on a school’s eligibility.”

In DeSantis’ directive to Diaz, he said the “plain reading” of Florida law prevented the schools’ funding from being withheld as punishment based on the districts’ actions.

“Compliance with law by the schools, and not the districts, drive the allocation of funds for the program. At most, districts are a pass-through, as districts have no lawful means to spend these funds,” DeSantis wrote. “My approval and your subsequent implementation of this funding must rely on the plain language that districts’ actions do not impact schools’ eligibility.”

This latest development is seemingly one of the final straws in the fight between the DeSantis administration and local school boards. Late last summer, school districts were imposing mask mandates in response to DeSantis’ mask mandate ban.

A series of back-and-forth legal challenges between the state and the school districts in 2021 eventually led to the districts dropping their mask mandates and subsequently dropping their suit.

However, the Florida Legislature, during the 2022 Legislative Session, did not forget the trouble caused by the rogue school districts, proposing the 12 districts who violated the state law be punished for their violations.

“A number of school districts intentionally broke the law, but 55 of them did not,” said State Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) in February. “And so we have created an allocation in this budget of $200 million for the 55 school districts. It is being given out based on their FTE counts to reward them for the decisions that they made.”

Now with the funding being restored, DeSantis thanked teachers for wanting to return to the classroom and thanked Florida’s schools for working to keep Florida’s students from having to endure much of the policies large swaths of the rest of the country put their students through.

“Because Florida kept schools open for in-person education over the last two years, we have avoided the most devastating learning losses as experienced in states that locked kids out of school,” DeSantis wrote. “To do this, Florida had to overcome opposition from entrenched interests that were intent on shutting out our parents and students from opportunity, including union-controlled school board members. Florida teachers overwhelmingly wanted to teach in-person and did an admirable job under unprecedented circumstances.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.

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