Gov. Ron DeSantis reverses funding reward for school mask mandates

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Miami's Freedom Tower, on May 9, 2022. The Special...
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Miami's Freedom Tower, on May 9, 2022. The Special Olympics has dropped a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its games in Orlando after Florida moved to fine the organization $27.5 million for violating a state law against such rules. DeSantis, on Friday, June 3, 2022, announced that the organization had removed the requirement for its competition in the state, which is scheduled to run June 5 to June 12. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)(AP)
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 9:21 AM EDT
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A dozen Florida school districts — including those in Palm Beach and Indian River counties — won’t miss out on funding after all.

The budget passed by the Florida Legislature earlier this year included a $200 million “School Recognition Fund” to reward 55 school districts that didn’t enact universal face mask mandates for students last year.

Twelve districts that did mandate masks — including Palm Beach and Indian River counties — were not eligible for that money.

School districts in Martin, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee counties were eligible for the reward money.

However, in a June 2 letter to Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., Gov. Ron DeSantis instructed the Florida Department of Education to ignore the Legislature's decision and "reward eligible schools for their achievements, as districts' actions have no bearing on a school's eligibility."

The governor said compliance with the law by schools and not the districts is key in allocation of funds for the program. DeSantis added that districts have no lawful means to spend the funding.

The "School Recognition Fund" gives financial awards to schools that receive an "A" grade or improve more than one letter grade on state assessments.

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