Florida Gov. Ron “Mini-Trump” DeSantis clearly has adopted the M.O. of his political hero, Donald Trump, never passing up the opportunity to stand in front of cameras and microphones to proclaim his defense of “freedom.” Or perhaps it should be spelled “free-dumb.”
Recall how DeSantis boldly took on the cruise ship industry, which pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into Florida’s economy each year, telling them they had no right to demand proof of coronavirus vaccination from people who wanted to board their ships. A federal judge thought differently and ruled last week that DeSantis overstepped his authority, declaring that cruise lines are within their rights to demand proof of vaccination.
Then this past week the Republican governor threw down another gauntlet, promising that he would withhold the pay of any school official in Florida who insisted on a mask mandate for all students, teachers and staff. In other words, DeSantis said it’s illegal for schools to insist that people wear masks in a state that currently is experiencing the worst surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic began.
Many have doubted the legality of DeSantis’s threat, noting that operation of the state’s schools lies entirely with local school boards. But if somehow DeSantis does have sway over school officials’ pay, President Joe Biden’s administration is prepared to step in. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Friday that school districts that lose state funding for enacting local safety measures such as mask mandates can draw down federal relief dollars to ensure their people are paid.