For Immediate Release on Monday, August 23, 2021

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Allen Ellison issued this statement on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ threat to penalize school district officials, including withholding their salaries, because they defy his anti-mask mandate:

“Under the Florida Constitution, our children are entitled to safe and secure schools and a high quality of education. And that’s what several school districts are doing by imposing mask mandates to protect the students, teachers and employees from a deadly disease — one that has claimed, so far, more than 42,000 lives in Florida, with 17,000 or so people currently hospitalized across the state. Since children under 12 are ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccines, masks offer them the best protection.

“Gov. DeSantis’s order banning mask mandates in schools is endangering the lives of our children, teachers and school employees. And he wants to punish school leaders who defy him by threatening to withhold funds equal to the salaries of school board members if they don’t rescind their mask mandates immediately.

“We need to support our educators, who have been subject to verbal and other types of abuse because they’ve simply taken the right step to protect our children. That’s why I have established a GoFundMe page to help raise money for school districts when they have been stripped of funds by state officials for defying the governor’s order. One-hundred percent of the money you donate will go toward helping any school district that has been denied its fair share of funds. Since the state Board of Education has threatened the Alachua County and Broward County school boards, five more school districts have defied Gov. DeSantis’ executive order.

“It’s clear parents in Florida cannot rely on the governor and Republican officials to do the right thing. As a parent myself, I share your worries because my child’s safety is paramount. Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon recently wrote in an opinion piece: “I value life too much to take chances with the lives of others, even under the threat of retaliation. As our school board chair has so aptly put it, better a loss of funding than a loss of lives.

“We need to work together to ensure that we support brave leaders like Superintendent Simon as we all strive to provide the security and quality education that our kids deserve and try to make life as normal as possible for them.”