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The Broward County Public School Board during a meeting.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it is awarding more than $420,000 to the Broward County School Board to cover state financial penalties targeting school board members’ salaries.

The grant is intended to pay for the salaries of eight Broward board members who voted for a student mask mandate that allows exceptions only for medical reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced Aug. 30 that the Florida Department of Education had started to withhold funds from the Alachua and Broward County school districts in amounts equal to the monthly salaries of school board members who voted for mask requirements. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $150,000 to Alachua County to cover the salaries of four school board members.

“With these grants, we’re making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “I commend Broward County for protecting its students and educators, and I look forward to working with them to provide students their best year yet.”

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Broward County Public Schools interim superintendent, Vickie Cartwright.

“We are grateful for the support of the federal government in helping us continue to protect our students and staff from COVID-19,” said Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright in an interview with the Sun-Sentinel. “I support our School Board for their focus on doing what is in the best interest of our families to ensure our schools continue to provide safe and healthy learning environments.”

The federal grants are part of an ongoing feud with the state over mask policies in public schools. The Florida Department of Health last week tightened a rule aimed at preventing mask mandates, as Gov. Ron DeSantis argues parents should be able to decide whether children wear masks. The revised rule says that opting out of mask requirements is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion,” trying to remove wiggle room for districts to require doctor’s notes for exceptions.

Broward is one of at least 11 school districts that have defied the orders and imposed mask requirements for all students unless they have a medical exemption.