Chris Sprowls, the Republican speaker of the Florida House, needs to review his election website. In particular, Sprowls ought to pay attention to the section called “Get To Know Chris Sprowls.”
Among other things, the website reports that “Chris passed a bill that allows parents to send their child to any public school they wish to, so long as there is room. Chris also brought a pilot program to Pinellas County that allows selected principals to have more autonomy in how they manage their schools…”
This sounds wonderful. It sounds as if the GOP politician believes in local control and autonomy. Contrast that with the stand Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Republicans take as the Delta variant of Covid-19 ravages the Sunshine State. They support a top-down approach that blocks local school boards from requiring people to wear masks in school at least until the Delta variant is brought under control.
DeSantis even spoke by phone in late July with Sprowles and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who is also a Republican. Christina Pushaw, the DeSantis press secretary, explained the purpose of the calls. “As you’re probably aware, the governor hinted last week that the Legislature would have a special session to ensure that all Florida school districts are mask optional so that parents can decide what is best for their own kids,” a report in the Tampa Bay Times said.
Possibly calling a special session to support the DeSantis edict flies in the face of values Sprowls supports on his election website, which notes, Sprowls “became a strong advocate for free-market economic policies that reward innovation and prevents the government from picking winners and losers.”
The youthful-looking speaker doesn’t want the government picking winners and losers. But that’s exactly what DeSantis and his Republican enablers are doing. The governor is selectively enforcing his supposed commitment to personal freedom in public education by saying he will declare winners and losers. The winners are parents and children who don’t want to wear masks in public schools. The losers are the parents and children who want everyone to wear masks to tamp down on the rapidly spreading and potentially deadly virus.
The dictatorial, top-down approach in which state leaders pick winners and losers is more alarming because of a report out today. It says, “Florida is experiencing the highest rate of children hospitalized with COVID-19 across the U.S.
“According to data from the CovKid project, which uses COVID-19 hospitalization numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of August 7, Florida is reporting 8.1 children hospitalized with COVID-19 per 100,000 residents. The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in Florida is the highest in the nation, according to the data.
The article added, “Data from the project also shows that over the past seven days, Florida has reported 341 new hospital admissions among those aged 17 and younger, the most in the U.S.”
We’re used to dealing with a virus that primarily harms and kills older people and those with a variety of illnesses. But the Delta variant is not as picky when selecting its victims. Even younger people and children are entering Florida hospitals now. This reality confronts us as a new school year begins. Maybe our most powerful state leaders need to return to school to take a values course that explores the concepts of hypocrisy and civic responsibility.
What follows, below, is a response I got Thursday afternoon from the Florida Department of Education. I contacted Richard Corcoran, the director, yesterday morning after the state DOE approved an emergency rule last Friday. According to press reports, the emergency rule allows students who feel “Covid-19 harassment” in school to apply for a public-funded HOPE Scholarship so they can attend a private school that does not require students to wear masks. Critics contend this will deny public schools of much-needed funding. Here is the comment:
Thanks so much for reaching out and I really hope you are having a great week. Based on your email, it appears there is a little confusion regarding the Hope Scholarship. The Emergency Rule helps provide all families with choices and does not discriminate against families who would like their child to attend a school “where everyone wears a mask.” The scholarship goes both ways as long as there is an account of “harassment.”
I hope this clears up any confusion. Also, I have attached a document that provides you with additional information regarding the Hope Scholarship. You can also review more information, including Frequently Asked Questions by going here.
- Jared M. Ochs – Director of Communications and External Affairs at the Florida Department of Education
- To track Covid-19 in children, go to COVID-19 Cases Dashboard | The COVKID Project
- Dr. Carlee Simon, the Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, Discusses Why Masks are Needed at the Start of the School Year.
- Florida teen endorses vaccinations now that she is off a ventilator.
- DeSantis was not aware that the federal government sent ventilators to Florida.
- The governor announced a new Covid-19-related policy on Thursday: COVID In Florida: Gov. DeSantis Launches Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Centers (msn.com)