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1st Florida school district gets U.S. cash for virus mask mandate vote

The grant is intended to make up for state pay cuts imposed on school boards that enacted COVID mask requirements for students.
In this Aug. 23 file photo, students sit in an algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school, in Miami Lakes. Alachua County's school district is the first in Florida to receive a grant from President Joe Biden's administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board's vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate.
In this Aug. 23 file photo, students sit in an algebra class at Barbara Coleman Senior High School on the first day of school, in Miami Lakes. Alachua County's school district is the first in Florida to receive a grant from President Joe Biden's administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board's vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate. [ MARTA LAVANDIER | AP ]
Published Sep. 23

GAINESVILLE — A Florida school district has received cash from President Joe Biden’s administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board’s vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate.

Alachua County school Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release Thursday the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program.

Related: Florida issues new executive order easing school COVID rules

Simon says Alachua, where Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, is the first district in the nation to receive such a grant.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials have begun cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students. DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.

Related: For Florida school boards, criticism gets personal as issues intensify

In Alachua County, the pay reductions so far for four school board members who voted for the mask mandate amounted to $27,000, Simon said.

“With these grants, we’re making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

About a dozen school boards in Florida, representing more than half the state’s students, have voted to defy the state ban on mask mandates despite the DeSantis decision to withhold some of their funding.

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