Today’s entry: Listening to your report on the superintendents, it sounded like they were making the argument that most people don’t believe in parental choice. If I recall that’s not the case. It sounds like they’re as misinformed as they are misguided.
Bottom Line: Today’s note stems from Thursday’s hearing before the Florida Board of Education for the eight offending school districts who’ve continued to flout Florida law with school mask mandates without parental opt-outs. During the hearing, each superintendent had the opportunity to make their case as to how or why they thought they were in compliance with state law. The common refrain was the attempted use of the “compelling interest” provision provided to school districts under which they might have leeway to step on and overrule parental rights. The problem with that argument, in the specific instance of the school mask mandate debate, is that the state has determined this issue doesn’t satisfy that provision and the courts have found in favor of the state on that issue.
Now, related to your question/point, the one superintendent who specifically cited public opinion was Miami Dade’s, Alberto Carvalho. Yes, to the extent he seemed to threaten the Florida Board of Education by saying this will continue to play out in the “court of public opinion”, in addition to the courts themselves as six of the school districts have sued the state for a third time over this issue. The inference was that most Floridians want this, the fact is they don’t, and they haven’t.
I reported on parental choice for school mask mandates around the start of the school year based on data from FAU. FAU’s polling was the first to reveal the narratives by school districts on the school mask issue were off base. On the subject of mask mandates vs parental choice, FAU intentionally asked multiple related questions. On the question as to whether you agree or disagree with the CDC’s decision to recommend students wear masks in school regardless of vaccination status, 66% of Floridians agreed compared to 30% who disagreed. That’s typically where other surveys stopped. And that’s commonly what school districts have used to suggest that mandatory masking is desired by two-thirds of Floridians. A subsequent question was far more instructive.
When FAU asked if parents should be able to choose whether their children should wear masks at school, 51% of Floridians supported parental choice compared to just 40% who opposed. That's solid support in favor of the state’s position and it illustrates another important dynamic that’s in play during the pandemic. Pragmatism. 21% of Floridians who agree with the CDC’s recommendation for mask use in school, don’t believe a recommendation should equal a mandate which eliminates the choice of the parent. That’s telling, and that’s the kind of nuance that’s commonly missed as many in news media, in politics, and on school boards are simply looking to confirm their biases and preferences without eliciting the truth as to what we really think and believe. Floridians solidly stand with Governor DeSantis and the Florida Board of Education against mask mandates without parental choice. So yes, offending school officials who believe most are with them are indeed misguided.
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