The White House has been using what little power it has regarding K-12 education to assist school district officials who are violating state rulings that prohibit them from forcing kids and school employees to wear masks during school activities and events.
Recent remarks by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona indicate that the administration intends to make federal assistance available to school superintendents and educators, and school board members who are given financial penalties due to their refusal to comply with executive orders and state laws mandating masks.
It comes as approximately two-thirds of the children attend school current week against the backdrop of such an ongoing pandemic that has already forced thousands of teachers and students to quarantine in the midst of COVID-19 outbreaks. As a result, it compelled schools to come back to virtual learning or postpone the beginning of the school year, and further politicized the already contentious school system.
White House Encourages To Disregard Bans On The Mask Requirements
Cardona expressed his “deep concern” in letters forwarded last week to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as well as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Republicans both, about the governors’ continued endeavors to block the district leaders from implementing mask mandates, including a threat from DeSantis that he planned to cancel state funding and then dock the salaries of educators who defied his executive order.
Cardona also expressed his “deep concern” in letters forwarded last week to Ron DeSantis, Florida Gov., and Greg, Abbott Texas Gov.
On Saturday, President Joe Biden personally phoned district leaders in Arizona and Florida, praising them for “doing the right thing.” The call demonstrated to Biden that the White House had elevated this same issue to the top level, even as it tries to deal with an escalating situation in Afghanistan, which is in danger of deteriorating further.
Several Florida school districts, including Alachua, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties, are considering whether to mandate masks in their classrooms.
Hillsborough County is the latest to join the team after nearly 6,000 students and even more than 300 school staff members in the country’s seventh-largest school district were quarantined or isolated after contracting the flu, according to the district’s website. For the purpose of dealing with the epidemic, the school district intends to convene an emergency meeting on Wednesday. The 730 positive cases are almost 20 times more than the number of positive cases recorded in late August of the previous year.
The legal ramifications of Abbott’s executive order are being felt across the Texas court system, where the Texas Supreme Court has temporarily stopped two lower court decisions that reversed his statewide ban on mask requirements.
That’s precisely the argument that public health officials are pushing back against as the vast majority of children return to school in several places where mask requirements are not in place – one of the most operative mitigation strategies suggested by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and one that, according to a new poll, the vast majority of Americans support.
It is still uncommon for children infected with COVID-19 to get unwell and even more unusual for them to become ill to the point where they need hospitalization. However, since there are so many children who are not yet eligible for immunization and because vaccination rates among those who are eligible are so low, the highly infectious delta form is driving an increase in pediatric infections.
Furthermore, although the new variety does not seem to be causing more severe illnesses, more children are being admitted to hospitals. It is profoundly worrying in places that had the most difficulty returning to in-person learning last school year, primarily large urban cities where Black and Hispanic families became disproportionately affected, leading to some district leaders pushing back start dates and then scrambling to find funding for current virtual learning opportunities.