Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Mask Up

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools board will meet today and vote whether or not to require students and staff to wear masks to stem the tide of Covid-19.  If they do, they will be following the lead of two other Florida counties, Broward and Alachua, and defying the orders of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is bound and determined to run for president and show that he can be as much of a bully and despot as the last Republican.

From the Miami Herald:

Two Florida school districts that flouted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order on mask mandates escaped sanctions Tuesday, as the State Board of Education called for further review of their initiatives.

The seven-member board determined that the Broward County and Alachua County school districts had violated state rules and laws relating to mask mandates and parental rights by not offering opt-out provisions. But the board did not withhold funding or take other punitive steps as originally threatened.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who had floated the idea of severe and immediate sanctions, lamented that the Biden administration had stepped in at the “last minute” to support the districts. The administration’s proposed actions regarding federal stimulus money could offset any financial penalties the state imposes.

“They’re going to backfill the salaries of the school board members and superintendents,” Corcoran told the board. “I just want to put in perspective for you where we are with the Biden administration.”

As a result, Board Chair Tom Grady offered a proposal for Corcoran to further investigate the districts, delaying any possible penalties until state officials can figure out a punishment that sticks.

“It may involve withholding salaries. It may involve removing officers. It may involve reviewing district conduct. It may involve public records requests to see how monies are being spent within the districts, including whether they’re being spent for public relations or political purposes contrary to their constitutional mandate,” Grady said as he listed what future penalties could entail.

Grady said Corcoran should “take all legal steps to enforce” the state’s rules and laws and directed the Florida Department of Education to make recommendations to the Legislature on amending laws as necessary to give the board enforcement authority over areas where it currently has none.

It takes an inordinate amount of hubris and dictatorial fantasy to put the lives of students, teachers, and staff at risk just to show the viewers of Fox that you’re their guy. It takes a lot of nerve to waste the state’s money on fighting against school districts to enforce non-existent laws and toothlessly threaten the lives and livelihood of school officials so the governor can go on Tucker Carlson’s shitshow and bellow about Florida’s non-existent flood of illegal immigrants. And it takes the universal balance of karma to come into the picture when the governor of another state who has tried to out-DeSantis DeSantis tests positive for Covid-19.

All this political posturing is having an impact on public opinion about masks, but not in the way the Fox denizens are hoping for. Greg Sargent in the Washington Post:

The other day, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis likened mask and other health mandates to “medical authoritarianism.” The Republican added that we may be witnessing “the most significant threat to freedom in my lifetime, certainly since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Because DeSantis was speaking in the hermetically sealed-off information universe of Fox News, such drivel was certain to elicit approval. But outside of that universe — with DeSantis and Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott actively thwarting local officials from protecting their constituents with mask mandates — a backlash to these antics may be brewing.

A new Axios-Ipsos poll probes public sentiments on this in a novel way. It asks respondents about state laws that prohibit local officials from creating mask requirements. Both DeSantis and Abbott have sought to do this, albeit by executive order.

The result: 66 percent of Americans oppose such state laws, and only 33 percent support them. What’s more, the poll also finds that a whopping 77 percent oppose efforts to withhold funding from school districts and local governments that implement mask mandates.


Meanwhile, other polling shows the potential for backlash to these GOP antics. Ron Brownstein obtained data from numerous pollsters and found that sizable majorities of vaccinated Americans want tougher requirements imposed on those who refuse to get vaccinated.

That polling, Brownstein reports, also finds that large majorities of vaccinated Republicans also hold the unvaccinated responsible for the recent surge in covid cases and believe the delta variant will lead to a worsening of the pandemic.

None of that really matters in the schoolyards and classrooms that will be opening next Monday here in Miami-Dade County. There are more than 400,000 students, teachers, and staff who learn and work in the District. The idea that their health, safety, and lives take a backseat to one man’s political ambitions should be the crime, not the wearing of a mask.


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