Late Thursday, Feb. 17, the Florida Senate passed a nearly $109 billion budget without debate, while the House, the day before, passed one that calls for stripping $200 million from schools that imposed the facemask mandate in 2021. The budget differences are expected to be resolved by March 8.  

The Florida House of Representatives had passed a $105.3 million spending plan Wednesday on a 102-14 vote, but after a lengthy debate over defunding schools that disallowed Gov. DeSantis’ statewide order not to mask students.

Thus, under that budget law, the state diverts school funding from 12 counties that imposed school mask mandates and shifts it to 55 school districts that never required them, the Associated Press noted.

The Senate broke with the House budget proposal and did not include the “Put Parents First Amendment” that had been introduced by state Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay).

When defending that amendment reprimanding school administrators who forced the use of facemasks, Rep. Fine said, “Following the law is not optional. … These school districts broke the law.”

In addition, he noted that the state budget continues to increase school funding across the board, meaning affected school districts will continue to receive more money than last year.

The cuts would specifically target school district administrators’ budgets and not educators or budgets having to do with students. 

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the budget with cuts that passed the House. 

In a Twitter interaction with Rep. Fine, he defended the funding stripping and thanked both Fine and the House for protecting students and teachers from measures imposed by “union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats.”

The House and Senate must now resolve differences on the budget to send to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis by March 8, as once agreed upon they must wait 72 hours to vote on it and the session ends on March 11.

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