By: Harrison Neville
In the tense political climate that we are currently living in, there are some words that you know are guaranteed to generate a response. The list is long and the responses vary depending on who you ask. Words like critical race theory, immigration, Afghanistan, COVID-19 and, of course, mask mandates.
Recently, an article from the Washington Post about mask mandates caught my eye. The article was titled “Florida issues financial penalties to school districts with mask mandates.”
Upon reading it, I learned that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), had decided to carry through with his threat to deny funds to school boards who chose to enforce mask mandates and quarantine procedures for students who were asymptomatic after exposure. The Florida board of education voted unanimously to penalize schools for violating policies.
They then denied pay for the school boards whose members had chosen to enforce mask mandates. Luckily for the members of those boards, the U.S. Education Department said that the Supporting America’s Families and Educators, or SAFE grants, will cover the cost of any school district’s denied funds for what President Joe Biden referred to as “doing the right thing.”
The response of the Florida board of education was hardly surprising. They stated that for any funds given to school boards by the federal government, an equal amount would be taken out of the budget from the school systems.
Whatever your views on politics, you have to realize that this is wrong.
The ridiculousness of the situation could be comical if it wasn’t for the fact that there were actual lives at stake. Unfortunately, I’m not describing the plot of a Parks and Recreation episode. These are real decisions made by real individuals elected by the people to serve the people, but they seem to have forgotten the point of their jobs goes beyond self-interest.
Neither the Biden nor Desantis administration are doing anything heroic. True, Biden is supporting those who are being attacked by their own state, but he’s also playing the game of politics. I don’t have anything to blame him for, but that doesn’t mean I have to be impressed that he is acting in a politically expedient fashion.
No, there are no heroes here; no heroes, except the school boards who have chosen to do what they see as right, despite the opposition stacked against them.
The fact of the matter is, members of these school boards have no reason to enact mask policies unless they actually believe they are necessary.
This isn’t national, or even high-level state politics.
These are school boards. There is a very real chance that most of the members are actually serving there because they want to do something positive for their community.
More importantly, there is no motivation for them to invent grand conspiracies.
Because if the goal was to pander to the audience for political points, then they clearly weren’t very aware of where they lived.
Also, whether or not you agree with the decision of the school boards who have chosen to require masks, the fact is that they were elected by their constituents. According to the Florida Board of Education, the Biden administration’s actions are crossing a line by interfering too much in state affairs, but the Florida Board of Education is doing the exact same thing by denying school districts the right to manage their own affairs.
If there is anything that the last few years should have made abundantly clear to us, it is that most politicians are more interested in pandering to us than doing their jobs.
We need to hold them to higher standards, but that starts with ourselves. That starts with not bashing school districts that have no reason to put themselves in the hot seat for national politics.
Politicians play games with people’s lives, and it can be frustrating for all of us down on the ground, but we can make a difference. We can stop letting them toy with us, we can refuse to believe their ridiculous claims, we can fact-check their sources and refuse to be used like a pack of rabid wolves to be turned against anyone who disagrees with us. In short, we can choose to stop playing their game.
Harrison Neville is the editor in chief for The Alabamian. He is a fourth-year English major whose hobbies include reading, hiking, cooking and writing. He has previously worked for The Alabamian as a managing editor, distribution manager, copy editor and SGA columnist.