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Florida education commissioner doubles down on threats to Duval over masks

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Florida's education commissioner is now threatening to dock Duval schools more money to balance out assistance from the federal government in the continuing battle of wills over COVID masks.

Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued memos Tuesday to Florida’s Board of Education requesting that the state hold back both school board member salaries and funds equal to the federal grants aimed at covering those losses, from 11 school districts including Duval.

The state board will meet Thursday.

The Biden administration has said it would pay districts for any money Florida withholds from them, but Corcoran is trying to make sure the districts still lose money.

"Should the State Board adopt my recommendation, I request that it consider the sanction of withholding state funds in an amount equal to 1/12 of all school board members’ salaries, as well as withholding state funds in an amount equal to any federal grant funds awarded to the [Duval County School Board] for its noncompliance with Emergency Rule 64DER21-15,” Corcoran wrote in the memo.

Duval County has stood firm against the state, which insists that parents should decide whether their children wear masks to school. Duval allows students to opt out of its mask mandate only for medical reasons, but the School Board plans to meet next week to rethink its threshold for lifting the mask requirement.

Currently, the district plans to relax its mask mandate when the county has fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Superintendent Diana Greene says recent trends suggest the district won’t hit that mark until the first week of November.

The school board also has authorized legal action against the state, but no case has been filed yet.

Read Commissioner Corcoran's memo to the State Board of Education below. The board will meet at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.