A Florida school district announced last week that it is the first school district in the nation to receive a federal grant to replace funding that was withheld over its mask mandate.
The U.S. Department of Education gave Alachua County Public Schools nearly $148,000 through its Project Safe grant program, which reimburses school districts for funding withheld by a state government because of mask requirements and other coronavirus-related protocols.
Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon was informed of the grant during a call Thursday with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
“Well, in our situation, right now, we are very much under a lot of pressure from the state government, the commissioner of education and the governor to essentially act out their will and go along this path of managing COVID,” Simon told reporters. “It is comforting, though, that we have the president and the U.S. Department of Education that are there to support us.”
“We should be thanking districts for using proven strategies that will keep schools open and safe, not punishing them. We stand with the dedicated educators in Alachua and across the country doing the right thing to protect their school communities, and with today’s first-ever award under Project SAFE, we are further enabling educators to continue that critical work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a prepared statement.
The Education Department also published a notice inviting more districts to apply for Project SAFE grants.
The financial penalties stem from a July 30 executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis that sought to prohibit school districts from requiring students to wear masks.