Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Wednesday ripped the Biden administration for unlawfully meddling in the state’s education policy for mask mandates.
Corcoran maintained in a letter that the U.S. Department of Education, in the typical tyrannical, ham-handed style the administration is known for, had overstepped its boundary by funneling money to local school officials who implement COVID-related masking policies for children.
Corcoran did so by quoting the department’s own words back to officials in Washington.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, in accordance with Florida law, has threatened to withhold funding for local educators who don’t allow parents to opt-out of masking policies. Tallahassee would retain the amount equal to their salaries until they change the policy.
In the letter, Corcoran noted that the federal Education Department created a grant initiative dubbed Project SAFE to skirt this provision of state law.
As the commissioner wrote, federal law says that nothing in the statutes “shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government, including through a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement, to mandatem, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources” [emphasis added].
“The Department has indeed attempted to assert such ‘control,’” Corcoran argued, by basing the program’s grants on whether local school board members or school superintendents have had their salaries cut, as state law allows.
Corcoran reminded the agency of two things.
First, in Florida the state Board of Education, or SBE. controls policies affecting schools. And when it comes to masking policies, the board uses funding for salaries as the tool to motivate compliance, he added.
Secondly, the federal law governing the grants President Joe Biden is tapping to pay the withheld salaries pays for “activities” intended to promote school safety.
“You are mistaken to suggest that the state violated [federal education laws] by withholding state funds in an amount necessary to counter your Department’s unlawful efforts to encourage noncompliance with Florida law,” said Corcoran.
“The orders of the SBE do not reduce the allocation to the district. They simply withhold a portion of state funds until the school districts come into compliance with state law. When the districts can demonstrate compliance with state law, those funds will be disbursed,” he concluded.
The federal law “was not meant, as the Department would have it, as a source of regulatory authority, giving the Department the power to dictate state education policy….”
“For these reasons, I am asking that the U.S. Department of Education cease and desist from its unlawful efforts to encourage local school board members to violate Florida law.”
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