Joe Biden is putting the screws to Republican governors who are defying the federal government’s mask guidance for schools.
I guess when it comes to opposing politicians, Biden is a holy warrior. But the Taliban? Not so much.
Biden said at a press conference that he would not “stand by” and allow governors to prevent local districts from “keeping students safe” by imposing mask mandates.
The president named no names, although everyone knows he’s talking about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s high-profile rejection of forced masking. DeSantis is threatening to withhold state education funds from local schools whose officials mandate the wearing of masks.
“I’m directing the secretary of education to take additional steps to protect our children,” Biden said at the press conference. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”
In letters to the governors of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, [Secretery of Education Miguel] Cardona said bans on school masking mandates are putting students at risk and “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.”
Cardona, in a Wednesday post on the department’s Homeroom Blog, said the department can investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions “may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally.”
Cardona is assuming a lot of power that he doesn’t have.
“The department will also receive and respond as appropriate to complaints from the public, including parents, guardians, and others about studentswho may experience discrimination as a result of states not allowing local school districts to reduce virus transmission risk through masking requirements and other mitigation measures,” he wrote. “As always, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights evaluates allegations of discrimination on a case-by-case basis, looking at the specific facts of each case.
You have to twist the GOP mask guidance into a pretzel to come up with the policy being a violation of a student’s “civil rights.” It’s nonsense and Cardona knows it. But oftentimes, making public policy doesn’t depend on what’s right or logical, only what a federal judge declares legal.
The increasingly bitter battle over masking comes as Florida’s coronaviruscase numbers are rising, with the seven-day average for new cases reaching a high of 24,720 on Tuesday. The number of cases in young people is rising as well, and the state’s Department of Health has restarted a case dashboard on its website. Thousands of students in school districts that have already started the 2021-22 school year are already in quarantine after being in contact with someone diagnosed with the contagious delta variant.
We might wish that Biden had shown this much fight against the Taliban, which now has 15,000 Americans at their mercy. He’s certainly dropping the hammer on Republican governors.
I doubt whether the Taliban is impressed.