By Ryan Paul
Florida parents, teachers and education workers are finding themselves in a uniquely precarious situation. For one, they are contending with threats from various state elements to force them to go back to school and to send their children to school. The commissioner of education, Richard Corcoran, recently issued an executive order mandating that schools re-open for at least 5 days a week. This was amidst a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, and while the majority of parents and educators “do not have faith that their school can be reopened safely.” Corcoran is probably trying to fall in line behind the current administration and its efforts to push for full re-opening.
He, a republican, has recently expressed praise of the regime in power and has even defended Trump’s comments, in regard to Charlottesville, saying that the president “…spoke well on Charlottesville.” This was only exacerbated by the fact that Trump had “threatened to cut federal funding for districts that defied his demand to resume classes in person.”
In response to all of this, the Florida Education Association (FEA) has filed a lawsuit in order to “safeguard the health and welfare of public school students, educators and the community at large.” The suit is aimed at “…Governor Ron DeSantis, Commissioner of Education; Richard Corcoran, the Florida Board of Education; the Florida Department of Education; and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez”. What’s important to note here is that, according to a survey by the FEA, most teachers and parents are not comfortable with full re-opening. And of the educators asked, who also have children of their own living at home, “only 15% are comfortable sending their own child back to school this fall.” Not only are parents and teachers worried about the spread of COVID, but there are other factors at play, too. One Florida parent said that they are worried about a disaster scenario in which an outbreak occurs, and right-wing elements in Florida politics will use it as a reason to justify further defunding of public education, which is already a huge problem.
The authoritarian and undemocratic approach of forcing schools to reopen, full scale, with no consideration of the advice from local or regional health experts, reeks of impending tragedy. But also it shows how quickly our notions of being able to have a say in the way our society operates can erode. What workers in all industries, including education, must rely on now is organizing together under the banner of cooperation over competition and we must not acquiesce when mild reforms are given. This example in Florida reveals how the economic and political elite have little to no regard to the lives of working people, even those who teach their children.