Biden administration escalates fight with GOP governors over masks in schools | #Education | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

With help from Lauraine Genota

Editor’s note: Weekly Education is a weekly version of POLITICO Pro’s daily Education policy newsletter, Morning Education. POLITICO Pro is a policy intelligence platform that combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ESCALATES FIGHT WITH GOP GOVERNORS OVER BANS ON MASKS IN SCHOOLS: The Biden administration is stepping up its criticism of Republican governors in states like Texas and Florida for bucking federal public health guidance, as classes resume in much of the country — and as coronavirus case counts continue to swell.

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both recommended that students wear masks on campus in to mitigate the spread of the Delta variant of Covid. And administration officials, including Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, have for weeks been critical of states that have prohibited school districts from requiring students to wear masks in the classroom.

Now, the administration is now taking a more muscular approach. The Education Department on Friday announced it would allow federal resources to help school teachers and school boards that defy statewide prohibitions on masking.
And over the weekend, the White House said President Joe Biden had personally called school officials in Arizona and Florida who chose to defy their respective governors by implementing indoor mask mandates in their classrooms.

In separate calls, Biden praised Phoenix Union High School District superintendent Chad Gestson and Broward County Schools interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright for their “leadership and courage to do the right thing,” a White House official said.

In a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Cardona wrote that he was “deeply concerned” by the state’s efforts to prevent schools from requiring masks. He said federal Covid relief dollars are available to pay the salaries of educators, school board members and superintendents at schools that choose to require masks if the state revokes funding, as DeSantis has threatened. Andrew Atterbury has more.

Cardona over the weekend tweeted out his letter to Florida officials, adding: “We. Must. Protect. Children.”

In a similar missive to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Cardona said that state’s prohibition on mask mandates “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law.” He added that federal relief dollars could be used by school districts “for contact tracing, implementing indoor masking policies, or other policies aligned with CDC guidance.”

— The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday sided with Abbott, temporarily halting two lower court rulings that had tossed out his statewide ban on mask mandates. The orders stop two counties — Dallas County and Bexar County, where San Antonio is located — from imposing mask mandates in schools.

“The ban doesn’t prohibit using masks,” Abbott tweeted on Sunday. “Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools.”

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