States with school mask mandate bans unlikely to lose federal funding, education secretary suggests, but face inquiries


Top line

The Biden administration is expected to crack down on states that ban school districts from imposing mask warrants, but Education Secretary Miguel Cardona suggested on Sunday that revoking their federal funding would be counterproductive, as the federal government escalates its battle against school mask warrant bans after Florida punished two neighborhoods that violated its order.

Highlights

The Education Ministry is “ready to launch investigations” into any allegation that the state’s mask mandate bans have discriminated against students or blocked their access to education, Cardona said on Meet the press Sunday, after President Joe Biden and Cardona announced on Wednesday that the Education Department would use its civil rights arm to go after state mask tenure bans.

When asked by host Chuck Todd if the “endgame” of federal government actions was a denial of federal funds, Cardona said when it comes to withholding funds, “those who suffer are the students.” .

Withdrawing funding from schools “doesn’t usually work,” Cardona said, and “if anything, it adds insult to injury to those students trying to get into the classroom.”

The Education Department’s civil rights office can impose a “range of penalties” for any violation, with revocation of federal funding being the most serious, the Associated Press notes, and the agency could also refer the matter to the department. Justice for more legal details. action.

Governors and lawmakers in at least eight states – Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Iowa, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah – have banned school districts from promulgating mask warrants (the Arkansas ban has overturned by a court) and the Biden administration has sent letters to each of those states warning them of the potential consequences.

States can specifically violate a stipulation in the American Rescue Plan Act that grants states federal funding “to enact a plan to safely return to in-person training,” Cardona said in a blog post earlier this year. week, if they block districts. to “voluntarily adopt science-based strategies” that prevent the transmission of Covid-19.

Crucial quote

“Let’s put politics aside, let education officials and health experts make the decisions about how to protect students and staff,” Cardona said.

Tangent

After the Florida Board of Education formally decided on Friday to deduct the cost of school board member salaries from state funding for two districts with mask mandates, Cardona reiterated on Sunday that these schools and all others will be able to replace. their funding lost by federal funds that were already allocated to these districts. Cardona said he told the superintendents of those districts the White House “[has] their backs ”and noted that the state cannot block the access of districts to these federal dollars.

Key context

School mask bans have become a topic of growing controversy, as the wave of delta variants coincided with the start of the new school year. While school districts in the majority of states banning mask warrants have now gone against state-level bans, the battle for school funding has mostly been fought in Florida, as six districts have now voted to impose mask mandates that the state says violate their policies. In addition to the two districts that Florida has already imposed sanctions against, the state has pledged to also prosecute others who have followed in their footsteps. “No one is above the law, not even school board members, and those who break state law will suffer the consequences,” said Christina Pushaw, spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Forbes in an email Thursday. Beyond Florida, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has said he will withhold federal funding for schools that have mask mandates – even before Arizona’s ban officially goes into effect on Sept. 29 – and South Carolina schools could also face funding cuts to impose terms.

Further reading

Responding to President’s Call to Support Safe and Sustainable School Reopening (US Department of Education)

States banning mask warrants could face civil rights inquiries (Associated Press)

Tennessee becomes latest state to ban school mask warrants – Here’s the full list (Forbes)

Schools sanctioned by Florida for imposing mask warrants – Schools in these states could be punished next (Forbes)

Florida to withdraw funding for 2 school districts that have imposed mask warrants, unless lifted within 48 hours (Forbes)

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