DeSantis to ban mask mandates for children in Florida's public schools, let parents decide

Good politics, good policy. Not much more to say than that.

Although I’ll seize this opportunity to nudge him again that mandating vaccines for public-school teachers is also good policy, even if the politics is … complicated.

Teacher mandate, Ron. It’ll save some lives. And if it makes them unhappy, great, that’s a bonus. The unions deserve to be unhappy.

Today’s announcement came after Broward County’s school district voted to require masks for all students this fall in accordance with the new CDC guidance. But there’s little evidence that kids themselves are at meaningful risk from Delta, which is why the WHO and many European countries still don’t mandate masks for children. And constant masking may set kids back developmentally. Asking vaccinated adults to mask in the interest of protecting the willingly unvaccinated is asking a lot; asking children, who’ve borne outsized costs from the pandemic, to do so for the same reason is asking too much.

So DeSantis is promising an executive order to bar Broward and other counties from moving ahead. A special legislative session had been contemplated instead of an order but lawmakers opposed that, which I’m sure the governor was fine with. The more he can take personal ownership of this issue, the more his “anti-Fauci” credentials will benefit. Shrewdly, he’s framing the coming order as a matter of parental choice:

“There’s no off-ramp. We were told that the off-ramp was vaccination. Now we’re told that that’s not going to be the case and now you’re going to have to do masking, you may have to do restrictions and other severe forms of mitigation that will have a devastating impact on so many people’s lives and livelihoods and freedoms. So CDC’s policies, by doing this so hamhandedly by not looking things like this Brown study, it really shows a callous disregard for the physical, emotional, and academic well-being of our children,” he said. “They need to be put first. We had this whole year and a half where so many people in society wanted to put kids last. They wanted to impose most of the extreme mitigation on the kids that were the least likely to face any negative harm from this and, obviously, who were in very developmental stages where this could do a lot of potential damage. The forced masking, it has harmed students.”…

“And the question is, shouldn’t this be something the parent is best to evaluate the effect that this has on their children? Why would we have government force masks on our kids when many of these kids are already immune from prior infection, there is virtually zero risk of serious illness, and when virtually every school personnel, they’ve had access to vaccines for months and months,” DeSantis argued. “I want to empower parents to be able to make the best decisions they can for the well-being of their children… we need to make sure that the parents’ rights are protected. The parents have to come first.”

A big fight with Democrats during the midterms over whether parents on the one hand or unions and school bureaucrats on the other should have the final say over children’s learning environment could work out nicely for Republicans. Especially with those suburban voters who got away from them over the last few years and whom they’re desperate to woo back.

First, though, Florida needs this trend to turn around. Not just for humanitarian reasons but because the battle to keep kids in school and unmasked will be easier to win if ICUs aren’t overflowing statewide:

Here’s a longer clip of DeSantis explaining his thinking on school and parents. Worth your time if you can spare it.