The Florida Board of Education unanimously passed two rules — one regarding school attendance as it relates to Covid-19 and another about the use of scholarship funds to help kids being harassed for mask use.
The rules will go into effect immediately for the upcoming start of the school year.
Friday’s emergency meeting was called as parental concerns grow around Covid-19 protocols.
The first rule presented by the Florida School Board of Education states that in the event that school districts implement quarantine orders for students who could be exposed or could become infected, attendance rules should change as to not impact the education of children. Since “these directives will result in learning loss for students unless plans are enacted to continue learning during ‘stay-home’ days,” according to the document presenting the emergency rule.
Board of Education General Counsel Michael Mears stipulated during Friday’s emergency meeting that “even though they won’t be physically present under this rule, they’ll be able to continue their education and get credit for those days of schools outside of the physical school building.”
Mears urged school districts to implement procedures so children could continue learning at home.
During the time set aside for public comment, several parents complained that virtual schooling was no longer an option in their school districts forcing them to send their healthy kids into schools.
“I also like to point out that all children in Florida do have a virtual option. If they want to send their student to a virtual school, they should reach out to their own district. They can also access the Florida Virtual School and obtain a virtual education,” school board chair Tom Grady replied.
The second rule set forth pertained to using Hope Scholarship funds for parents who felt their kids were being harassed because of their personal choice of mask use. The funds, in the form of a voucher, can be used to switch schools. As explained during the emergency session, the money comes from Floridians who chose to make donations to the program when they buy motor vehicles. According to the board, “it is not money that was appropriated to the districts.”
During the hour-long conference call, vice chair Ben Gibson explained further that “this rule allows a parent to access a scholarship that they could use to go to a different public school, they could use to cross to a different district if you happen to live near a line. You could go to another school district, or you could access a private school that accepts state scholarships and the funding would follow, but it’s not taking money from the district.”
“Those funds are then available to help parents get their child out of a situation that’s 100% in keeping with the right of a parent to direct the education and health of their children,” Gibson added.
An outraged parent chimed in during the public comment session, “I urge you to look beyond the false platitudes of parental rights and personal freedoms that this rule espouses. It is in fact, extremely one sided,” the Leon County parent said. “What about my constitutional parental rights to a safe public education for my child? This bill defunds school districts and you’re writing a blank check of taxpayer money to private school.”
“We’re not going to hurt kids. We’re not going to pull funding that’s going to hurt kids in any way,” Gibson said.