Reactions are rolling in following Governor Ron DeSantis‘ announcement that he will soon sign an executive order that will give parents the final say on whether their children will be required to wear masks while attending school in Florida.
DeSantis announced the executive order on Friday at Two Meatballs in the Kitchen restaurant, a local Italian restaurant in Cape Coral. The order will direct the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to issue emergency rules to allow parents to make the decision for their children to wear face coverings in schools. The Governor also gave parents a platform to voice their opposition and push back against the controversial mandates.
“I want to empower parents to make the best decisions they can for the wellbeing of their children. Accordingly, I’ll very soon issue an executive order which directs DOH to issue emergency rules protecting the rights of parents on wearing masks for children,” DeSantis said before adding that he and his wife, First Lady Casey DeSantis, will not force their 3 children to wear them.
DeSantis, who has openly lambasted mask mandates in school, led a weeklong crusade against mask mandates, going as far to tease a special session if local districts decided to enforce mask wearing. The Governor’s hardline stance comes after the CDC recently updated rules saying any children under 12 should wear masks while at school. It was a departure from earlier guidance as the CDC said circumstances had changed as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread across the country.
The move drew praise from several supporters, including many GOP leaders.
Senate President Wilton Simpson agreed with DeSantis’ position on the hot-button issue, releasing a statement noting that parents should have the final say in whether their children wear masks during the upcoming school year.
“When it comes to mask mandates in our schools, parents need to be involved in the decision for their children. I trust Florida parents to evaluate all of the information available and make the best decision about whether or not their children will be wearing a mask when they return to school next month,” Simpson said in a statement. “I’m grateful to Governor DeSantis for his strong and steady leadership at every stage of the Covid-19 Pandemic and appreciate his leadership on this issue, which is so important to many families across our state.”
House Speaker Chris Sprowls also issued a statement, applauding DeSantis’ “decisive action.”
“While there are some public officials who will seek to use the power of government to compel uniformity and adherence to their preferred course of conduct, that approach is not in keeping with Florida values,” Sprowls said. “Gov. DeSantis recognizes that parents are in the best position to make choices for their children. His actions today demonstrate his faith and trust in our fellow Floridians, and he – and they – have my full support.”
DeSantis’ future executive order also brought out several detractors.
Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor turned Democratic gubernatorial candidate, hit back, citing the executive order as another example of DeSantis putting “politics over people” before transitioning to a campaign pitch.
“It’s simple: Ron DeSantis puts politics over people; I will put the people first. Raise our hand if you think it’s time Florida had a Governor who put the people ahead of their own politics,” Crist said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Florida Education Association (FEA), the statewide teachers union, issued a scathing rebuke, arguing that the executive order keeps schools from being safe, while also claiming that DeSantis doesn’t “respect the
“Whether it is mandating a pay plan that requires teachers with 15 years of experience to be paid the same as a first-year teacher or telling locally elected officials they cannot enforce recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Gov. DeSantis continues to think that Tallahassee knows best what all Floridians need. We reject that kind of thinking. Instead, we ask Gov. DeSantis to allow all Florida’s citizens to have a voice by empowering the elected leaders of cities, counties and school districts to make health and safety decisions locally based on their unique needs and circumstances,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.
We ask @GovRonDeSantis to allow all Florida’s citizens to have a voice by empowering the elected leaders of cities, counties and school districts to make health and safety decisions locally based on their unique needs and circumstances. – @andrewsparfea pic.twitter.com/LOAL4tvqdJ
— Florida Education Association (@FloridaEA) July 30, 2021