Statement

Statement of Raymond C. Pierce, President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation, on the Florida Board of Education Decision to Provide Private School Vouchers in Districts Requiring Masks

MEDIA CONTACT:  Gretchen Wright, gwright@southerneducation.org, (202) 421-5830

August 11, 2021 (Atlanta, Georgia) —The Southern Education Foundation released the following statement from its President and CEO regarding the Florida Board of Education’s decision to drain public education funds in order to provide private school vouchers in districts requiring masks to prevent transmission of COVID-19:

As school districts around the nation struggle with how best to protect the health and safety of students returning to school, the Florida Board of Education has taken this opportunity to undermine local control and authority over local schools and drain funds from an already underfunded public school system. The Board’s decision undermines public health by supporting parents who do not want their children to wear masks in schools at a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that districts require masks to prevent further spread of the deadly and highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

In many cases, school districts are working closely with local task forces of medical and public health experts to make recommendations for the upcoming school year. The sole purpose of these task forces is to provide expert advice with regard to COVID-19-related issues and recommend to local school boards the best practices for operating schools safely.

As an organization that helped to establish public education in the South and that has long worked with school district leaders in the southern states, the Southern Education Foundation is deeply dismayed at this attempt to undermine local control and to siphon funds from public schools into private schools. These actions only serve to put students’ health at risk and undermine their education. This effort is the latest salvo in what seems to be an ongoing campaign to defund the public schools that serve the majority of Florida’s students of color and students from low-income families.

We support the school district leaders that are putting students’ health and safety first by requiring masks to protect students from COVID-19 while they are in school and learning. We strongly encourage the state Board of Education to reverse its position on this serious issue.

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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at https://southerneducation.org