DeSantis threatens to withhold salaries in school mask-mandate dispute

In his ongoing crusade against mask mandates in schools, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters GOP senators call on Biden to back down from vaccine mandates DeSantis to call special session of legislature to fight vaccine mandates MORE (R) announced on Monday that the Florida Board of Education could withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who defy his ban on facial coverings.

"With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for noncompliance of state law regarding these rules and ultimately the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s education and health care decisions, it would be the goal of the State Board of Education to narrowly tailor any financial consequences to the offense committed," DeSantis's office said in a statement to WFOR-TV.

His office added that DeSantis's priorities were "protecting parents' rights" and "ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs."

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"For example, the State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law," the statement continued.

The Florida governor has already threatened to cut off funding to schools that enact mask mandates for students.

DeSantis has been engaged in an ongoing spat with the Biden administration regarding his decision to prohibit mask mandates in Florida. Last week, two lawsuits were filed against DeSantis challenging his ban's constitutionality.

One of the suits argued that the Florida state constitution guaranteed a safe school environment and provided counties with the power to govern themselves.

Fellow Republican Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year Arkansas governor backs employer vaccine mandates MORE of Arkansas said last week that he regretted signing a ban on mask mandates, asking the state legislature to reverse the decision. Hutchinson said he had signed the law when cases were low in his state and argued that even if he hadn't signed it, the legislature would have overridden him.

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"Everything has changed now. And yes, in hindsight I wish that had not become law," Hutchinson said.

Florida is currently regarded as the state being worst hit by the latest surge in new COVID-19 cases in the country. Despite having about 7 percent of the U.S. population, Florida has around 20 percent of new COVID-19 cases.

According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, Florida currently has a positivity rate of nearly 12 percent. Around 51 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated. As of last week, around 84 percent of hospital beds are currently occupied in the state.