TALLAHASSEE— The Florida Education Association is suing the state to block plans for the August brick and mortar reopening of the state’s public schools. President Fredrick Ingram says Governor Ron DeSantis and the education commissioner do not have a responsible plan or the legal authority to send millions of children and teachers back into the classroom five a week, especially as the coronavirus spread is skyrocketing. FEA represents nearly 150,000 teachers and staff and is the largest union of its kind in Florida.
Florida is the epicenter of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the nation. The governor has made clear that he is following President Donald Trump’s lead to open public schools. Ingram says the risks are too great. “The order is reckless and unconscionable. Until we get control of the community spread, we cannot open in this manner. No one wants to be back in the classroom more than teachers, but we want to do it safely. The known risks have to be mitigated by the state. We have to use distance learning until it is safe to return to the classroom,” he said. Ingram added that more importantly, teachers are anxious to get back to the work of teaching children.
Like Trump, DeSantis left the ultimate decision-making responsibility and planning to local school boards. Ingram says if that’s the case he should rescind his emergency order. Critics say DeSantis is engaged in a PR stunt to appease the president and offer the appearance of jump starting the economy when he is really creating spreader environments.
Ingram also pointed to the violation of the state constitution that states, “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system of free public schools.” Reopening the bricks and mortar classroom is a huge problem for students and teachers of color. Those ethnic groups, African Americans in particular, are disproportionately impacted by killer diseases that are complicated by the virus. Blacks are three times as likely to die from the combination of chronic diseases and COVID-19.
Both the state and national NAACPs joined the lawsuit that was filed in the 11th Circuit Court in Miami.