Florida school districts file petition for hearing over withheld funds

Florida school districts file petition for hearing over withheld funds
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Florida school districts on Friday filed a petition for an administrative hearing after the state withheld funds due to their decision to institute mask mandates.

The Broward County, Alachua County and Orange County school boards filed a request for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge on Friday.

The petition, obtained by The Hill, was filed to determine the "validity" of the state’s Department of Health emergency rule that the state argued would protect "the rights of parents and their children." The rule allows for parent or legal guardians with students in schools that instituted mask mandates to opt out of the measure. 

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The court filing comes after Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced Monday funding for school board members’ monthly salaries from Alachua and Broward county districts would be withheld. 

The school districts implemented mask mandates that prohibit parents and legal guardians from opting their children out of the protocol, in opposition to the state rule.

The funds will be withheld “until each school board complies with state law and rules.”

In the petition filed Friday, the school districts cited recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which state that parents, teachers, staff and students should be masked in schools for their reasoning implementing mask mandates. The districts also alluded to the positivity rates in the Florida counties. 

“Our School Board members made a courageous decision to protect the health and lives of students, staff and the people of this community, and a court has already ruled they had the legal right to do so. They deserve praise, not penalties,” Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, said.

School boards in Florida have been fighting with the state for weeks over mask mandates after the state saw a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant. 

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaHillicon Valley — Immigrants being put in surveillance programs Senate Democrats urge government to do more to protect K-12 schools against hackers Democrats call on Education secretary to address 'stealthing' at federal level MORE talked to the two schools after the state’s announcement Monday, saying the federal funds can be used to address the penalties the schools are facing.

The court filing on behalf of the schools Friday was submitted by David C. Ashburn from GreenburgTraurig.

Elaine Walker, director of media relations for the law firm, told The Hill the attorneys do not have further comment on the filing.

The Hill has reached out to the state’s Department of Health for comment.

Updated: 9:39 p.m.