White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a message on Tuesday to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is threatening to withhold salaries of superintendents who impose mask mandate in schools.
“If you're not interested in following the public health guidelines to protect the lives of people in your state, to give parents some comfort as they're sending their kids to school,” Psaki said.
“Then get out of the way and let public officials, let local officials, do their job to keep students safe,” Psaki added when asked what the White House says directly to DeSantis.
Psaki told reporters that the White House and federal government are continuing to look for ways to support local school districts and educators, “as they try to follow the science do the right thing and save lives.”
She added that the funds made available to Florida had not yet been distributed on a state level.
“So, the question is, why not? And those can be used to cover expenses that come up in this period of time,” she said. “They're under federal discretion, so they just need to be distributed to the schools — we're looking into what's possible.”
Psaki said later that paying for salaries could be a part of that, and the Department of Education is looking at options. Withholding funds is not the intention, she said.
And she thanked the leaders in the state working to impose guidelines, potentially against the will of the governor.
“I do want to call out the courage and the boldness of a number of leaders in Florida, including in Miami-Dade County — people who are stepping up to do the right thing to protect students and keep schools safe and open,” Psaki said.
“This is serious. And we're talking about people's lives, and we know based on public health guidelines that even though kids under a certain age are not yet eligible masks can have a huge impact," she continued.