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TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) – Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed slashing $200 million in education funding from a dozen counties that defied the state’s ban on mask mandates in public schools, adding that parents deserve compensation for the harms done to children by such mandates.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that the House gave preliminary approval to the penalty as part of a $105.3 billion state budget for the coming year. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Leon, Alachua, and Volusia would be among the impacted counties.

Specifically, the proposal by Republican state Rep. Randy Fine cuts the funds in the targeted jurisdictions that pay the salaries of administrators making more than $100,000 a year. Those education dollars would then be redistributed to Florida’s remaining counties.

“Most students didn’t want to wear masks in the first place!” DeSantis said. “Let’s also give parents recourse for harms imposed on their kids due to this defiance. They should get compensated for academic, social, and emotional problems caused by these policies.”

Available evidence suggests that masks have played little, if any, role in reducing COVID-19’s spread across the United States, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) September 2020 acknowledgement that masks cannot be counted on to keep out COVID when spending 15 minutes or longer within six feet of someone, or a May 2020 study published by CDC’s peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.”

Last May, another study found that, though mandates effectively increased mask use, that usage did not yield the expected benefits: “mask mandates and use (were) not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 spread among U.S. states” from March 2020 to March 2021. In fact, the researchers found the results to be a net negative, with masks increasing “dehydration … headaches and sweating and decreas[ing] cognitive precision,” and interfering with communication, as well as impairing social learning among children.

“The potential educational harms of mandatory-masking policies are much more firmly established, at least at this point, than their possible benefits in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” University of California-San Francisco epidemiologist professor Vinay Prasad wrote in September. “Early childhood is a crucial period when humans develop cultural, language, and social skills, including the ability to detect emotion on other people’s faces. Social interactions with friends, parents, and caregivers are integral to fostering children’s growth and well-being.”

Only seven states (plus the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories) still have statewide mask mandates. Numerous left-wing figures have claimed that evolving scientific knowledge has justified the change, but critics suspect the real deciding factor was internal polling, such as that conducted by New Jersey Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy’s team, indicating that forced masking is deeply unpopular.

Since taking office in 2019, DeSantis has aggressively pursued a litany of conservative priorities, including protections for religious freedom, conscience rights, and the objective reality of biological sex, with a special focus on opposing COVID-related lockdowns and mandates, raising his profile as a potential 2024 U.S. presidential contender in the eyes of conservatives. Many of his supporters are currently waiting anxiously to see if he will sign or veto a measure that would extend liability immunity to hospitals related to COVID treatment.

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