A young student in Florida works on an assignment while wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The state with one of the highest rates of cases has also had to grapple with the conflict between educators on the local level and Governor Ron DeSantis, with the latter threatening to withhold funding of school boards who refuse to adhere to his ban on mask mandates. (source)
At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly spreading across various parts of the U.S., one would think mask mandates would be the way to go to reduce the number of cases, and would receive the support of people from everyone at the local school administrative level to politicians in local office to state leaders. That’s not the case in states like Texas and Florida. The latter getting widespread news coverage in recent days for not just a lack of a statewide mask mandate, but also the words and actions by its current governor, Ron DeSantis
In a move that doesn’t make any sense and threatens to increase more COVID cases in the already pandemic-battered state, Governor DeSantis has threatened to cut salaries of those who defy his executive order ban on state mask mandates. Christina Pushaw, who works as Governor DeSantis’ spokesperson, said on Twitter that “salaries of those superintendents and school board members who intentionally defy the EO(DeSantis’ executive order) and the subsequent rules protecting parents’ rights”. This means that whoever recommends wearing a mask at the local level, therefore defying the ban on mask mandates, could face suspension in pay according to this executive order.
This comes at a time when many people are still facing challenges returning to work, fresh off of a national eviction fight that has been recently extended, and for some, finding work at all. This executive order not only threatens to prevent school board leaders from saving potential lives in their district, but also from those very same people who are acting in the best interests of their students from getting paid, in a setting where not all in their supervision are eligible to get the vaccine yet.
How might this tie-in with the voting age movement? In Governor DeSantis’ spokesperson’s Twitter post, school board members were one of those groups who were threatened with a salary freeze. Recently in CA, school board elections were lowered to 16 for students to be able to vote for their school board members, giving youth some control over who represents their interests in their school districts. Some notable cities include Berkeley with Measure Y1 but also Oakland last year with Measure QQ. In those cases, if those school boards faced the same thing with their counterparts in Florida, those school board members would have been directly elected by youths.
While Florida doesn’t have voting at 16 in either the state or school board elections, it does have a really progressive movement for doing so. Several youth organizations are well-represented in the area. Not only would many young people be affected by their elected school board member not getting paid, but their own immediate health would be threatened if they followed the governor’s recommendation that masks are not needed at this time. This is also during a time when the Delta variant of COVID-19 has started to affect more younger people as those eligible to get vaccinated in older groups are giving less opportunity for COVID to mutate. COVID is starting to move to younger hosts in order to continue being a pandemic.
The story unraveling in Florida shows why it is important to lower the voting age in both local elections and for school board elections because, again, some people in elected office don’t care about the safety and health of the people they oversee and put politics and their own political party above human life.