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Statewide Teachers Union President: DOE Order To Reopen Schools In Fall Politically Motivated

Florida’s education commissioner issued a mandate Monday, requiring schools to open five days a week in the Fall. Statewide teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, is questioning the move.

Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s ‘emergency order’ calls on K-12 schools to provide all their usual services on brick-and-mortar campuses. The order says districts are “Subject to advice and orders” from state and local health departments. But, it also tasks schools with drawing up a reopening plan, which they are required to submit to the state Department of Education.

Fedrick Ingram, president of statewide teachers’ union the Florida Education Association, says teachers want to be back with their students in-person – but thinks Corcoran’s decision is motivated by politics.

“It is ironic that the Commissioner of Education would, on the twentieth day of increases in positive cases of COVID-19 in the State of Florida … issue a mandate to open schools on a date certain,” Ingram told WFSU Tuesday.

Corcoran, former Republican Speaker of the Florida House, issued the order on the same day President Donald Trump tweeted “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL.”

“If our commissioner of education continues to be guided by politics, by tethering themselves to the federal administration and the President of the United States, who has not given proper guidance moving through this pandemic as it relates to our public schools, then shame on them,” Ingram said. “We are going to be guided with one thought – that is, how we keep children safe and how we keep those who are taking care of those kids safe.”

Ingram acknowledges the order does give some flexibility at the local level. It doesn’t require parents to send their students back to campus, and it allows districts to receive funding for students using off-campus “innovative learning.”

“We believe that it does give some options to district. One, the mandate that is has is, schools will be open – or at least have an option for parents to choose to be open five days a week in the brick and mortar schools,” the FEA president said, a day after the order was issued. “So we are always of the opinion that local control is better.”

Ingram is concerned, however, that Corcoran’s order doesn’t address what he anticipates will be a higher cost of operation under the “new normal” caused by COVID-19.

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