TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Florida Senate Democrats plan to launch a crowdfunding effort to help cover salaries of local school officials if Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran make good on threats to withhold pay because of mask mandates in schools.

“If the governor chooses to defund public education and withhold salaries from educators as punishment for protecting students’ health and safety, we will fill the gap to support them in this fight,” Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said in a statement Tuesday.

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The caucus said it plans to start a GoFundMe account to raise money for the effort.

But Republican state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis suggested Wednesday the proposal might violate a state gift law for public officials and “sounds a lot like bribery.”

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“Also, they all may be breaking the law by using their official office in raising cash for a political outcome,” Patronis posted on Twitter.

Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat who is an attorney, said on Twitter that Patronis’ take was “interesting” because “threatening to not pay salaries is an illegal interference with a contract, violates (Florida) constitutional duty to run school district, and violates wage and hour laws, and that’s just off of the top of my head.”

DeSantis and Corcoran have threatened to withhold pay of superintendents and school board members if they require students to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor and commissioner contend parents should make mask decisions, but supporters of mask requirements say schools need to take steps to try to prevent spread of the virus.

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CBSMiami.com Team