The largest teacher's union in Florida is suing the state after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed an executive order requiring schools to reopen for in-person learning in just a few weeks. The Florida Education Association claims the state lacks an effective plan to combat coronavirus in schools.
"The gist of this lawsuit is that we want to make sure that our schools, when they reopen, reopen in the safest, most responsible way possible. We want to make sure we're looking out for the health of our students and for the people that work in our schools," said Andrew Spar, vice president of the union.
The state has reported more than 23,000 kids have tested positive for COVID-19. Spar said that number will surely rise if students, teachers, and faculty begin to gather again on school grounds.
"We don't know how people working in our schools, during the summer, have been diagnosed with COVID because they're not tracking them for that information."
Spar said a lawsuit against the state was the only option after attempts to negotiate with education officials failed.
"The task force they put together, out of 24 people, had three educators on it," he said.
The teachers union and community members drafted a list of recommendations for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but Spar believes it was likely ignored for political reasons.
"The governor has said early on, 'This is about economics. We want to make sure that our economy is growing,'" Spar stated.
An immediate fix in place of litigation would be the removal of the executive order and the implementation of virtual learning for the start of the school year, according to the union vice president.
"Let's put measures in place," he said. "Let the local school boards decide. There may be some places in the state where they can reopen in the brick and mortar sense, but let's be real that in a lot of parts of our state, where we've been really high in the number of cases, it's just not wise."
While options like remote learning can pose issues for many communities that lack access to internet service, Spar said this speaks to a larger issue our government should be addressing.
"Remote learning is clearly going to be an issue, it always has been, it's not ideal but under the conditions we have right now, it's probably the best way to go," he said.