The federal government is following through on its assurance to reimburse school districts who are penalized by their states for using CDC-recommended protocols for fighting the spread of COVID-19, such as mandatory mask mandates.
The Broward County school district sees it as a promise made, a promise kept by the Biden Administration, even if the amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the district’s overall budget. It’s the principal that matters, that someone has their back in the ongoing battle with the state over mask mandates.
The feds gave Broward County Public Schools $420,957, an amount equal to one year’s combined salary for the school board members. The state has been cutting an amount equal to one month’s worth of school board salaries every month.
“We typically never receive funding directly from the federal government, this is unique,” said interim superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
“But it is very encouraging although it is also very disheartening that we have to continue to receive sanctions and changes of rules and laws from the state,” said school board chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood.
Broward is one of 13 school districts in the state which have defied the governor and the Florida Department of Education on the mask issue, so the state followed through on its threat and started cutting Broward’s funding. Cartwright says the numbers show the district made the right call.
“We’ve just been able to keep this for the most part under control here in Broward County, even though as a county we were burning up, we were a hot spot, but you didn’t see it playing out in our schools, for us, it seems as though the numbers support masks made a difference,” Cartwright said.
Schools and COVID
The district’s voice dashboard clearly shows the downward trend in students and staff testing positive since the first day of school, but that in itself does not prove mandatory masking has produced better results than districts that have optional masking.
Osgood says the ongoing battle with the state has taken time and energy away from the district’s core mission.
“We keep getting the interference, we keep having home rule usurped by the state government and it continues to keep us back and forth, battling, instead of being able to just focus on our kids,” Osgood said.
So far, the state has only penalized the Broward and Alachua county school districts. Miami-Dade, for example, has not been sanctioned by the state even though it also adopted a mandatory mask policy, with opt-outs only for medically verified reasons.
As we have reported for months, the state has insisted that parents should have the option of sending their kids to school with or without masks.