The Florida State Board of Education has sent an order to Broward and Alachua counties’ school board officials stating that they have 48 hours to comply with the state’s wishes to allow an opt-out option for masks or the state will begin withholding funds, according to copies of the orders shown to CNN.
If the school districts do not comply and continue to keep their mask mandates in place, the districts will start facing financial penalties. The state is requesting a list of the annual salaries of all board members, and the State Board of Education will then begin withholding 1/12th of that amount each month from the district’s funds, according to the document.
The orders say this measure will be “an initial step” and that “monthly withholding must continue” until the districts are in compliance with the state request or the orders are rescinded.
If Broward or Alachua school districts do not supply a list of salaries, the state says it will use the most recent appropriations estimate for their calculation to withhold funds. Alternatively, if either district complies and allows a parental opt-out, withholding of funds will not occur.
As part of the order, Florida’s Commissioner of Education is also requiring the districts’ superintendents to certify a report regarding enforcement of a mask mandate. That report should document “any instance” of enforcing the “unlawful face cover mandate policy.”
That includes “instances of a student being sent home, reassigned, disciplined, suspended, isolated, stigmatized, warned or harassed because of the student’s failure to comply” with the policies of the Broward and Alachua mandates, according to the order.
The report must contain the name, grade, parent’s name and home address, according to the order.
The State Board of Education also says they will continue to investigate Broward and Alachua until it finds them to be in compliance and it may add additional penalties.
The order follows a unanimous State Board of Education vote Tuesday to recommend that Alachua and Broward counties be investigated for requiring mask-wearing in schools.
CNN has reached out to the Broward and Alachua school districts for comment on the order.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona reiterated the Biden administration’s support for local Florida educators after the state’s Board of Education order.
“This week, the President asked me to do everything I can to help protect our nation’s students and support the local leaders who are fighting for them. Let me reiterate: we stand ready to assist any district facing repercussions for imposing CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies that will protect the health and safety of students, educators, and staff,” Cardona said in a statement Friday afternoon.
“To that end, we’ve also made clear to district leaders that any financial penalties imposed by the state can be addressed immediately using CARES, CRRSA, or American Rescue Plan funds,” he added.
Cardona said that he spoke to the superintendents of Broward and Alachua County schools Friday “to reassure them that the President and his Administration stand with them and with all educators who put student and staff health and education first.
CNN’s Liz Stark contributed to this report.