Sarasota schools could lose $12 million as punishment for enforcing mask mandate

Florida lawmakers are considering cutting millions from 12 school districts, including Sarasota...
Florida lawmakers are considering cutting millions from 12 school districts, including Sarasota County, for breaking away from the state's orders on mask mandates in the classroom.(Sarasota County School District)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 7:57 PM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Sarasota County Schools, along with 12 other Florida school districts, may soon lose out on millions in funding because they chose to require students to wear masks at school.

As Florida lawmakers debate a budget bill this week, Randy Fine, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has put forward a proposal to collectively chop $200 million from the 12 school districts that chose to enforce a mask mandate after the state decided only parents could make that call.

If the bill passes, that money would then be distributed between other districts that did not use a mask mandate.

It would be tough on school district administrators in Sarasota. Teachers would go untouched, but administrators’ positions could be at risk, with some losing their jobs.

”Anybody working here at the Landings that’s not in a school could be potentially on the chopping block,” Jane Goodwin, the chair of the Sarasota County School Board, said. “I don’t want that to happen.”

Fine believes the consequences are necessary. He insists that districts like Sarasota County Schools deserve to have their budgets cut for defying state orders.

”They didn’t defy the mask ban; they broke the law,” Fine said. “They acted in an illegal way, and they engaged in the second-largest, state-sponsored act of child abuse in the history of Florida.”

However, Goodwin doesn’t see it that way.

She said the district did break from the state and imposed a mask mandate for a few months last year starting in August, but for good reason. At the time, cases were spiking, and the board felt this was the best call.

”This is about the lives of our staff, our teachers, our students and keeping them safe,” Goodwin said. “And anything we can do to keep someone safe is always of the utmost importance to running a school district.”

When asked if she would have made the same decision again, knowing this punishment was possible, she said she absolutely would.

The House Appropriations Committee is going to debate this proposal Wednesday.

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