Unintended side effect: Florida mask mandates lead to new funding for school choice

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The mask mandates being instituted by some school districts in Florida have resulted in a serendipitous side effect: New funding for school choice.

On Friday, the Florida Board of Education approved a proposal that’ll “allow families to use Hope Scholarship vouchers to transfer their kids out of schools that place rules on mask-wearing or other coronavirus policies that cause a child to experience harassment,” Tampa Bay station WTSP reported.

This means parents will have the option “to take their children out of public school and place them in another school, including either a private school or a school in a different district,” according to WTSP.

The proposal was conceived at the behest of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’d ordered the FLBOE “to come up with ways to pressure school districts against creating mask mandates and punish them if they do,” according to the Associated Press.

DeSantis is a staunch opponent of mask mandates, particularly for children.

What makes the proposal “genius,” as conservative commentator Candace Owens has called it, is that it kills multiple birds with one stone: It punishes Democrat-run school districts that force mask mandates on their students, it provides mask-opposed parents a way out and it gives a much-needed boost to the school choice movement.

Owens was so impressed by the idea, in fact, that she vowed on Twitter that she intends to pursue the same in Tennessee, where she’s been living since late last year.

“This is genius. I plan on leading this charge in Tennessee. Mother’s should withdraw their children from ANY school that is mandating masking. That money should be redirected to different educational means,” she wrote on Twitter.

Look:

The tweet was posted a day before the board formally approved the proposal.

All this comes even after DeSantis signed an executive order strictly forbidding school districts in the state from imposing mask mandates on their students. At least two Democrat-run districts have predictably chosen to ignore the order as if the rules don’t apply to them.

“Two Florida school districts are requiring students to wear masks at school, directly defying Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order,” according to Newsweek.

“Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) in Gainsville and Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) in Jacksonville announced mask mandates for students, teachers and staff Tuesday night,” the outlet reported earlier in the week.

In a tweet, ACPS attributed its decision to “dramatic increases in local COVID cases and hospitalizations, including among children.”

Look:

DeSantis has pushed back on this sort of rhetoric by correctly noting that the state’s hospitalization rate isn’t as bad as Democrats and their media allies have claimed.

According to The News-Press, a newspaper out of Fort Myers, top officials within “Florida’s largest health care systems” confirmed during a roundtable this week “that, despite a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, their hospitals are not overwhelmed and remain safe for staff and patients.”

“Orlando Health CEO David Strong told DeSantis that COVID-19 cases may be plateauing at his health centers. He said that, despite the fact that pandemic cases are peaking, people should not postpone health screenings or needed medical procedures as they did last year,” the newspaper reported.

Tampa General CEO John Couris added that, despite an uptick in cases, there are still more than enough beds open for elective procedures.

“There’s no question, governor, that our ERs are full and we are busy, that we have the most COVID patients that we’ve ever had through the pandemic. But we are a large hospital.” He added: “Our elective schedules are open and we’re operating. But we’re watching all of this hour by hour,” he reportedly said.

Meanwhile, the governor has also correctly noted that the risk of complications from COVID is “incredibly low” in children.

“The risk of corona, fortunately for students, is incredibly low. The CDC will show the statistics, under 18, much more likely to be hospitalized for seasonal influenza than for this, obviously, the fatality rate is much higher for seasonal influenza, amongst under 18. And this is proven to be. And so we’re fortunate that they’re low risk on this,” he said last month.

He wasn’t wrong.

The “overall risk of children becoming severely ill or dying from Covid is extremely low,” as reported by the BBC last month following an analysis conducted by scientists from University College London, and the Universities of York, Bristol, and Liverpool.

Vivek Saxena

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