School Year II during a time of plague

Two days before the start of the first in-person school year since 2019, I tighten sentences in my syllabi and adjust deadlines to alleviate the tightening of my belly muscles. Nervous I’m not; nervousness depends on the unknown and unsaid. I know what I’ll see in class Monday and Wednesday: about half or more than half of my students joining me in wearing masks. As per guidelines issued by my university based on Governor Ron DeSantis’ unhinged attempts to satisfy the Moloch of a base he thinks support him, I can’t require masks, nor can I say anything other than vaccine encouragement. Although my university says it follows CDC guidelines, I’ve heard no talk about what happens if outbreaks occur. Remote learning is out of the question — a mixed blessing, for my readers may remember posts decrying its effect on my mental health. I’m not alone. About the only good news? Vaccination rates are at their highest since June.

But in a wonderful demonstration of how collective action can produce victories, Miami-Dade County School Board, joining Broward, Palm Beach, Alachua, and Hillsborough counties, voted last week (7-1!) to require masks in classrooms. No one seriously thought DeSantis had a legal hope of successfully freezing the salaries of public school employees, including no doubt DeSantis himself; he waited for someone to call his bluff. I’ll let this Tampa Bay Times column take it away:

And things have gone downhill for DeSantis from there. He and whoever gives him what passes for advice in such matters realized the voucher threat was not going to get the job done. Not enough parents in Broward and Alachua were going to take advantage of the vouchers to make a difference, as evidenced by the low percentages of parents who have opted out of the quasi-mask mandates in the compliant school districts.

The next threat was to cut state education funding to Broward and Alachua, which would be disastrous. But because it would be disastrous, the threat was not credible, and it was quickly abandoned.

Then there were going to be “surgical” cuts in state funding, specifically, the salaries of the defiant school board members and superintendents. Nope. The state doesn’t pay those salaries, a fact known to my barber, if not to DeSantis and his brain trust.

With the federal government willing to step in, Florida (the state with the prettiest name!) has become, as POLIICO will of course report with slobber on their chins, a proxy for the 2024 presidential race.

The safety of my nieces and godson keeps those stomach muscles tight, though. I can’t find information about the former’s charter school mask policy. Until those needles go in arms I expect no respite.

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