Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Thursday provided $147,719 in funding to members of a Florida school board whose pay was withheld for violating Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on requiring masks in schools.
The Education Department said the funding to the Alachua School Board members was part of its Project to Support America's Families and Educators grant program. It was the first dispersal of funds under Project SAFE.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the Biden administration supports the Alachua School Board's decision to require masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them," he 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."
The Florida Department of Education announced Aug. 31 it withheld funds from two school districts that violated DeSantis' executive order -- Alachua and Broward counties.
The Republican governor issued an executive order amid spiking COVID-19 cases in the state to prohibit schools, and other government entities, from issuing mask mandates, arguing it's up to parents to choose how best to protect their children. As school districts went against his order, he threatened to withhold the pay of those who continued to go against his rule.
The school boards argued that masks were necessary since many students were too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The lack of a mask mandate only put not only the students at risk but also staff and the families to whom they could bring the disease home.