The four Republicans representing Sarasota County in the Florida House voted Wednesday for a state budget that cuts $12 million from Sarasota schools because the district approved a mask mandate in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
State. Reps Fiona McFarland, Tommy Gregory, Will Robinson and James Buchanan all voted for the $105.3 billion House budget.
The spending plan includes $200 million in cuts to 12 school districts with mask mandates.
Gregory, McFarland and Buchanan live in Sarasota, while Robinson lives in Bradenton and represents a district that includes a portion of northern Sarasota County. Michele Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat whose district also includes a portion of Sarasota County, did not vote on the budget.
House leaders say the budget cuts will not impact students and teachers, but instead will be targeted at school administrators, although some Republican lawmakers dispute that claim.
Buchanan argued that the cuts won’t impact classroom education.
The school funding cut is not included in the Senate’s education budget, which is overseen by Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who opposes the plan put forward by the House. The Senate approved its budget Thursday and now must negotiate over the differences with the House.
Gruters called the House’s proposed school funding cut a “bad idea, bad policy.” Sarasota schools adopted a mask mandate in August as the delta wave of COVID-19 infections was exploding, ignoring directives from DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education not to require masks.
The Sarasota County School Board repealed the mask mandate in October as cases declined.