Biden Lends Support To School Leaders Who Bucked Statewide Mask Mandate Bans

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: U.S. President Joe Biden takes off his face mask after arriving to deliver remarks in the East Room of the White House on July 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his admini... WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: U.S. President Joe Biden takes off his face mask after arriving to deliver remarks in the East Room of the White House on July 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his administration's effort to get more Americans vaccinated and plan to combat the spread of the Delta variant. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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August 15, 2021 11:22 a.m.

President Biden doubled down on his gratitude for local leaders who defied bans on school mask mandates issued by Republican governors during calls to school superintendents on Friday night.

According to the Miami Herald, Biden called Broward County Schools interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright and Arizona Union High School District Superintendent Chad Geston on Friday night to voice his support for the districts’ move to implement mask mandates, despite statewide bans on the public health measure.

Biden commended Cartwright for her “leadership and courage to do the right thing for the health and well-being of their students, teachers, and schools,” which goes against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) order, according to a summary of a call provided to the Herald by the White House.

The Herald reported that the President affirmed to Cartwright and Geston in separate calls that his administration “stands ready to support their school districts and communities to get back to safe, full-time, in-person learning.”

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Biden reportedly added that the American Rescue Plan and his administration’s policies will ensure “every school has the resources and guidance needed to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The President’s calls to the school superintendents were made the same day his administration offered to pay salaries of Florida school board members who lose state funds over defying DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates.

In a letter to DeSantis and his Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote that he was “deeply concerned” by DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates, and that federal relief funds could be used to replenish dollars that school districts would lose for passing local coronavirus safety measures.

“We are eager to partner with [Florida Department of Education] on any efforts to further our shared goals of protecting the health and safety of students and educators,” Cardona wrote. “If FLDOE does not wish to pursue such an approach, the Department will continue to work directly with the school districts and educators that serve Florida’s students.”

Last Thursday, the President made clear that he has the backs of school district officials who defied Republican governors’ bans on school mask mandates.

“I know there are a lot of people out there trying to turn a public safety measure, that is children wearing masks in school so they can be safe, into a political dispute,” Biden said on Thursday. “This isn’t about politics. This is about keeping our children safe.”

“Local leaders who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids, thank you,” Biden continued.

Shortly after Biden issued his remarks on Thursday, the Herald reported that DeSantis walked back his threat to cut pay from school district leaders for defying the state’s mask mandate. DeSantis’ office acknowledged that it has no say in determining local employees’ pay — but oddly demanded that “activist, anti-science school board members” take it upon themselves to cut down their own paychecks if the state gets around to implementing financial sanctions against their district.

“Those officials should own their decision — and that means owning the consequences of their decisions rather than demanding students, teachers, and school staff to foot the bill for their potential grandstanding,” Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said in an email to the Herald/Times.

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