DeSantis’ Office Flames Reporter for Coverage of Florida Reopening Schools in 2020: ‘It Was in the Best Interest of Florida’s Students’

By Eric Daugherty, Florida's Voice

September 1, 2022 Updated 4:51 PM ET

DeSantis Press1

HENDRY COUNTY (FLV) – In Aug. 2020, POLITICO correspondent Erin Banco published a Daily Beast report saying Hendry County officials are “feeling the heat from DeSantis to reopen schools.”

“SCOOP: The DeSantis admin forced these two counties into reopening schools for in person learning after they’d approved plans to implement virtual education,” she said. “Hendry Country has one of the highest infection rates in the state.”

Banco reported that Hendry County officials held an “emergency” meeting before the school year was supposed to begin in a “disturbing surprise” to reopen schools on Aug. 31, 2020, after Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened counties with loss of funding if they did not.

“I made the choice because I didn’t want to risk losing funding for this district,” then-Superintendent Paul Puletti said to The Daily Beast. “It’s all very stressful.”

Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary to DeSantis, lambasted Banco’s report Thursday, citing a New York Times report that the pandemic “erased two decades of progress in math and reading.”

“The “heat” from [DeSantis] that forced county school boards to open schools was the right policy decision, and it was in the best interest of Florida’s students,” he said. “Maybe @ErinBanco can provide an updated story.”

According to the Times, test results show 9-year-olds’ performance in math and reading dropped to approximately the same levels from “two decades ago.”

“I was taken aback by the scope and the magnitude of the decline,” National Center for Education Statistics commissioner Peggy G. Carr said. The test was conducted on 14,800 9-year-olds.

The Times also reported that mask mandates did not reduce the spread of COVID-19, another policy the DeSantis administration opposed and outlawed in schools.

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