The U.S. Department of Education on Monday sent a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran warning of “enforcement action” if the state follows through on its plan to withhold federal funds from school districts with mask mandates, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
The Florida Board of Education recently approved cutting funding to those districts by an equal amount to what they would be awarded in federal grant funding over their mask mandates.
The letter, which was signed by Ian Rosenblum, the Department of Education’s deputy assistant secretary of policy and programs, notes that “should [the Florida Department of Education] implement those orders, it would be failing to comply with federal requirements, in particular, section 8522 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, which provides: ‘A State shall not take into consideration payments under this Act … in determining … the amount of State aid, with respect to free public education of children.'”
It adds that the U.S. Department of Education expects its counterpart in Florida “to comply with all requirements applicable to its federal grant awards,” and says that if the state does “move forward with its planned reduction of state aid to Alachua and Broward (counties), the Department is prepared to initiate enforcement action to stop these impermissible state actions.”
It concludes, “We hope that you reconsider your threatened actions against these districts in response to the Project SAFE awards, so that they may continue to take steps to help ensure safe and healthy environments for their students, families, and educators.
“As always, the Department is eager to work with [Florida Department of Education] to ensure a safe and successful school year for all of Florida’s students. We remain ready to provide assistance, support, and partnership as we work together to achieve this shared goal.”