Fried Seeks Federal Money In School Mask Fight

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Tallahassee, FL - With Gov. Ron DeSantis threatening to withhold money from school districts that require students to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said Thursday she is asking the federal government to help offset any lost state dollars.

Fried, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2022, said she’s looking for a way to get federal money sent directly to local schools, without going through the Legislature or the state Department of Education.

“If this governor does what he is threatening to do and holds back money from them (the districts) if they make the right decision for their communities, first of all, I don’t know if that is even constitutional. Second of all, I’m working with the White House to see if there are additional resources that could come down from Washington D.C.” Fried said during a news conference at the Capitol.

DeSantis issued an executive order last week designed to prevent school districts from requiring students to wear masks. The order also threatened to withhold money from districts, as DeSantis argues that parents should be able to decide whether children wear masks.

Democrats have criticized DeSantis for trying to take away local control, and at least three school districts, in Broward, Alachua, and Duval counties, are moving ahead with efforts to require masks for students in some or all grade levels.

Leon County is requesting DeSantis allow a temporary mask mandate for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. “School boards should absolutely have the authority to make decisions that are in the best interests of their students and teachers, without facing political retribution, period,” Fried said.

Money typically flows to districts through a state funding formula, with lawmakers approving amounts in the annual budget.

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