GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A  Florida school district has received cash from President Joe Biden's administration to make up for state pay cuts imposed over a board's vote for a student anti-coronavirus mask mandate.

What You Need To Know

  • Alachua receives $148,000 from U.S. Education Department program

  • The funds are to make up for state pay cuts imposed for COVID mask mandates

  • It is the first school district to receive the funds from the federal government

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis favors allowing parents to make mask decisions

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon said in a news release Thursday the district has received $148,000 through a U.S. Department of Education program.

Simon says Alachua, where Gainesville and the University of Florida are located, is the first district in the nation to receive such a grant.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials have begun cutting salaries paid to school board members in Florida who voted to require masks for students. DeSantis favors allowing parents to decide whether their children wear face coverings and is in the midst of court battles over this broader issue.

In Alachua County, the pay reductions so far for four school board members who voted for the mask mandate amounted to $27,000, Simon said.

“With these grants, we're making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

About a dozen school boards in Florida, representing more than half the state's students, have voted to defy the state ban on mask mandates despite the DeSantis decision to withhold some of their funding. Hillsborough County in the Tampa Bay area and Orange County in Central Florida require face coverings, though students can submit medical opt-outs from physicians. Brevard County also has a mask mandate with a medical opt-out, but it will allow students to remove their masks when social distancing of 6 feet or more is possible.

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