12 school districts could lose $200 million for defying ban on mask mandates

State Rep. Randy Fine proposes $4.5M cut to own county’s school district

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida House Appropriations Committee advanced a plan Wednesday to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding to 12 school districts next year.

State House education leaders call it a consequence for their decision to defy the state’s ban on mask mandates.

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The 12 districts include Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Sarasota and Volusia counties. They are facing a $200 million budget loss collectively.

“Decisions have consequences, we in the legislature have the obligation to hold school districts accountable that refuse to follow the laws that we’ve passed,” said State Rep. Randy Fine, R-District 53.

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins told News 6 it’s the students who would suffer.

“How you take that much money away from a district and think that it has no impact on children when that is essentially our core business is a mystery to me,” Jenkins said.

The state plans to “reward” the money taken from the 12 districts to the remaining 55 districts that followed the rules.

Fine said the $200 million figure is based on 1,600 administrators in the 12 counties with a salary exceeding $100,000 a year. Serving part of Brevard County, Fine’s proposed cuts would take over $4.5M in state funding away from his own county’s school district, records show.

Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, called the move childish and mean-spirited.

“For a representative to now come and say anyone in the district who makes above a certain level of salary now has to take a pay cut because of a decision made by that school district, that’s punitive and that’s just plain wrong,” Spar said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in July, attempting to block student mask mandates. He insisted parents should decide whether their kids wear face masks.

It was not until Nov. 20-21 when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on House Bill 1-B that prohibits mandating facial coverings in schools.

“Until legislation was passed, the governor’s order was in question,” Spar said.

Fine doubled down, saying there was a law and place, and the districts broke that law.

“It doesn’t really matter what they think when there’s a state law, they will follow it,” he said.

Spar said this proposal comes at unideal time as Florida public schools are facing a massive staff shortage.

“Districts are struggling really filling all positions from administrative positions to teaching positions to custodian and bus driver positions and every position throughout the district,” he said. “We need the legislature to focus on that.”

Fine is still holding firm.

“I think it will indirectly affect them positively because those students will know those families will now know that the legislature stands with them, and those school districts will know that if they don’t follow the law, it will happen again,” Fine said.

Here’s a breakdown of the proposed budget cuts:

  • Alachua County - $2,049,770
  • Brevard County - $4,502,342
  • Broward County - $32,442,995
  • Miami-Dade County - $71,867,725
  • Duval County - $10,633,594
  • Hillsborough County - $14,193,997
  • Indian River County - $1,317,948
  • Leon County - $2,744,124
  • Orange County - $16,555,960
  • Palm Beach County - $28,431,102
  • Sarasota County - $12,062,991
  • Volusia County - $3,197,452
Florida lawmakers to consider withholding funds over past mask mandates

About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.