Biden seeks support for Florida schools threatened by governor over masks

Students return on the first day of school amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at West Tampa Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, USA on August 10, 2021. REUTERS / Octavio Jones

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 (Reuters) – The Biden administration is examining how it can send money to Florida school districts if state governor Ron DeSantis follows through on threats to withhold salaries from school leaders. facility that need masks for students.

Most Florida schools are reopening this week at full capacity. DeSantis, a Republican, warned the state could impose financial penalties on districts that impose masks, the latest in a series of actions aimed at brandishing his laissez-faire credentials.

Many school officials and public health experts say masks are needed to protect students and teachers, and President Joe Biden has clashed with DeSantis over this.

When asked on Tuesday if he could intervene in states that have banned mask warrants, Biden said he didn’t think so but his administration was exploring the possibility.

“I don’t think I mean it,” Biden said when asked if he had the authority to intervene. “We are checking this.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the administration is looking at whether it can use unspent COVID-19 relief funds to fight wage cuts imposed by DeSantis.

“We continue to examine what our options are to help protect and help support those teachers and administrators who take action to protect people in their communities,” Psaki said.

DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Republican rising star is closely linked to former President Donald Trump and has become a national figure to oppose pandemic restrictions, even as Florida has become a hotbed of infections and hospitalizations soar to record levels . Read more

It is widely seen as posing a potential 2024 challenge for the presidency. Read more

Last week, Biden called on Republican governors like DeSantis to “step aside” from efforts to contain the virus. The willingness to call out Republicans marked a change in tone from Biden, who tried to withdraw politics from the vaccination campaign.

At the time, DeSantis hit back at Biden, saying he didn’t want to “hear about COVID from you, thank you,” adding, “Why aren’t you doing your job?”

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw, Andrea Shalal and Jeff Mason; Editing by Trevor Hunnicutt and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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