Biden administration sends funding to Broward County Public Schools amid the appointment of a new Florida surgeon general

Guyano+Dulcio+helps+his+son+Tayden%2C+age+8%2C+with+his+mask+before+school+on+Sept.+22+at+Tamarac+Elementary+School.+Broward+schools+continue+with+a+no+opt+out+mask+mandate+in+defiance+of+Gov.+DeSantis.+Photo+courtesy+of+Joe+Cavaretta

Joe Cavaretta

Guyano Dulcio helps his son Tayden, age 8, with his mask before school on Sept. 22 at Tamarac Elementary School. Broward schools continue with a no opt out mask mandate in defiance of Gov. DeSantis. Photo courtesy of Joe Cavaretta

Brynn Schwartz, Writer

Since Friday, Sept. 10, there have been several developments in the ongoing battle between the state and Broward County. On Tuesday, Sept. 21, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a new Florida surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

The following day, Ladapo released new protocols, placing all decisions on masks and quarantine in the hands of parents. On Thursday, Sept. 30, the Joe Biden administration sent money to Broward County Public Schools after the state of Florida withheld funding from the county over Broward’s mask mandate.

Ladapo is an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently the head of the Florida Department of Health. Ladapo’s opinions align closely with DeSantis, with Ladapo recently writing an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, titled “Vaccine Mandates Can’t Stop Covid’s Spread.”

Ladapo also co-wrote an opinion piece in October 2020, titled “Let’s all be honest about hydroxychloroquine: Evidence is more positive than many in the medical community admit.” In this article, he argues hydroxychloroquine is an effective method to treat COVID-19一something the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against last year due to heart rhythm problems.

To mark his appointment at a press conference on Sept. 21, Ladapo said he would “reject fear” when creating policies to deal with the ongoing pandemic.

“People tend to feed off of fear, though I believe his ideology to be rather hypocritical seeing as [Ladapo’s] trying to make us afraid of getting vaccinated and trying to give far too much power to the parents of students,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School freshman Angelina Sibila said.

Similarly to DeSantis, Ladapo believes vaccines are a personal choice and claims, “there is nothing special about them.”

This has sparked backlash among many Democrats, but Ladapo appears to have support amongst Republicans. Ladapo is expected to be easily confirmed by Florida’s Republican-controlled Senate.

“[Vaccines] are proven to help lessen people’s symptoms to COVID and to make it less likely for them to get it, so saying that it’s ‘nothing special’ is inaccurate,” Sibila said. “I’ve known people that have been infected with COVID, vaccinated and unvaccinated, and the ones that were vaccinated had very mild symptoms as opposed to the unvaccinated ones.”

On Sept. 22, a rule was issued by Ladapo that places decisions regarding masks and quarantine in the “sole discretion” of families. This replaces the executive order put in place in late August.

Families are now allowed to choose if their child will quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19, as long as they show no symptoms.

“We are starting to get our feet back and this is just a straight up major step in the wrong direction,” sophomore Maya Gordon said. “It’s honestly disgraceful that this is who we have in the state of Florida to make our decisions on whether or not to keep students (or others) safe from getting COVID from one another.”

Because this replaced the old order, the new order resulted in the discarding of the lawsuit by parents of disabled children. It is unclear if the parents will re-sue. However, the families asked a federal appeals court to block the order in a 34-page motion filed by their attorneys on Oct. 9. The families claim Florida has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, which protects disabled people.

This is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department’s Office for Civil Rights stated the Florida DOE “may be preventing school districts in the state from considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.”

The Biden administration sent $420,957 in federal grants to Broward County Public Schools through the U.S. DOE on Sept. 30. This amount is equivalent to a year’s worth of salaries for the School Board members, although as of Oct. 5, the DeSantis administration has only withheld $70,000 in funding. A week prior, Alachua County Public Schools also received funding from the White House.

On Oct. 4, Florida’s Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, threatened to take the money given to Broward County away. Corcoran sent a letter to the Florida’s Board of Education, requesting to “withhold state funds in an amount equal to [one twelfth] of all school board members’ salaries, as well as withholding state funds in an amount equal to any federal grant funds awarded to” BCPS.

The Board of Education approved this request, effectively withholding one twelfth of all school board members’ salaries and $420,957.

Despite this, Broward County Schools has refused to budge.

“I’m not willing to risk anybody’s life-student or staff,” Rosalind Osgood, chair of Broward County’s school board, said in an Oct. 9 press release. “I wouldn’t do it with my children, my grandchildren, or myself.”

It is unclear what the future holds in the battle against the state of Florida and Broward County Public Schools. However, it is clear neither are willing to back down anytime soon, with Ladapo threatening to take the funding away and Broward schools holding strong.