Updated Oct 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin seeks to block Florida's penalties on school mask mandates

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Lakeland, Florida Police Department

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Lakeland, Florida, Police Department on Sept. 7. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Education filed a complaint Thursday urging an administrative judge to block Florida from withholding federal funds from two school districts for implementing mask mandates.

Driving the news: "The Florida Department of Education has unlawfully — and explicitly — reduced the amount of state aid provided to Florida school districts based on their receipt of federal funds," according to the complaint.

  • The complaint alleges that the state slashed funding to districts "as part of a broader effort to deter those districts from implementing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
  • The U.S. Department of Education filed the complaint with the agency's Office of Administrative Law Judges and seeks a cease and desist order against the state of Florida.

The big picture: School officials in Alachua and Broward counties alleged that Florida reduced funding because they received federal grants to counteract state penalties for issuing mask mandates, AP reports.

  • Thursday's filing is the latest clash between DeSantis and the Biden administration over mask mandates in the state.
  • DeSantis' administration also recently passed measures to cut the salaries of school board members in districts that implement a mask mandate, per AP.
  • DeSantis also announced Thursday that the state filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

What they're saying: The complaint "comes after we made repeated requests to work together and protect students, educators, and school communities," a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education said in a statement.

  • "We believe Florida’s actions have violated federal law by reducing state funds based on the receipt by districts of federal funds."

The other side: "The U.S. DOE is acting unlawfully and they have yet to respond to the substance of our prior response," Jared Ochs, a spokesperson for Florida's Department of Education, said in a statement.

  • "We will continue forward fighting for Florida students’ access to a free and public education."
  • DeSantis' office shares the Florida Department of Education's position, per a spokesperson.

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