$200 million in budget cuts to school districts that defied Florida mask mandate bans

Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:54 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The full House Appropriations Committee approved cutting $200 million from the budgets of 12 districts that defied the state’s ban on mask mandates. Even with the cuts, lawmakers say each district will still have more money than the current year.

The sponsor of the move faced tough questioning Wednesday.

“How is this not punitive to those twelve counties, or the parents in those twelve counties. You want to talk about parents, putting parents first?” Representative Matt Wilhite asked.

Wilhite was followed by Representative Fentrice Driskell from Tampa.

“Putting parents first was intended to be punitive to the school districts that received those deductions?”

But Representative Randy Fine held his ground.

“I don’t think its punitive” Fine responded. “I think its holding people accountable, and I think it is saying that we expect that the laws we pass be followed by all of our school districts.”

Two parents, both from Leon County also spoke

Marie-Claire Leman of Fund Education Now called the legislation politically motivated.

“This is being done to further divide our electorate. So one legislator is proposing this because he thinks he can. And the rest of you are going to go along with it, stoking those divisions” Leman said.

Parent Elizabeth Walker complained Leon school administrators dared her to sue if she didn’t like the mask policy

“She has been denied entry into her class room without a mask. And she not given credit for any hour that she missed.” Walker said.

The budget was approved with the cuts.

If these cuts remain in the budget, all 12 districts are still going to have more money in the next year than they do right now, but not as much as they would have had if they hadn’t bucked the state.

“They’re going to have more funding per student, they’re going to have more funding over all. This is a way to send a message, an important message,” Representative Randy Fine said.

So far there has been no effort to push the cuts in the Senate, but they are likely to be an issue when negotiations begin.

This coming school year Florida will spend $28 billion on public education, up from $26.7 billion in the current year.