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Florida teachers union sues the state over executive order to reopen schools in August


They don't want to reopen next month

Middle school teacher Danielle Weigand stands in protest in front of the Hillsborough County Schools District Office on Thursday in Tampa, Florida. Teachers and administrators from Hillsborough County Schools rallied against the reopening of schools due to health and safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

A teachers union in Florida has sued the governor and the state Board of Education over an executive order calling for schools to open five days a week for in-person instruction in August, NPR reported.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the Florida Education Association, names Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The union believes August is too early to safely bring students and teachers back into schools,

"Any sensible person would tell you we have got to get the positivity rate down," union president Fedrick Ingram said, according to NBC News. "This is a life or death situation. We don't want to be reckless; we don't want to be irresponsible."

What does the order say? The order, issued by Corcoran, states, "Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health, Executive Order 20-149 and subsequent executive orders."

The order allows for waivers or flexibility regarding some state requirements for number of days of operation, as long as that flexibility is exercised within a reopening plan approved by the state.

While schools will be reopened under the order, the state will also provide online education options for students and parents who need it due to medical conditions that either the student or someone they live with might have.

What is the state saying about the lawsuit? DeSantis deflected questions about the order by pointing out that he didn't issue it.

"I didn't give any executive order. That was the Department of Education," DeSantis said, according to NPR, which noted that DeSantis appointed the education commissioner and six members of the education board.

Corcoran dismissed the lawsuit as "frivolous" and "reckless."

"Clearly the FEA hasn't read nor understands the Florida Department of Education's guidance, the Emergency Order No. 2020-EO-06, or Florida Law," Corcoran said in a statement. "Currently, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Statute 1001.42 (the law) required K-12 Schools 'to operate 180 days' a school year. If you do the math, that equates to 5 days a week for 36 weeks."

"This E.O. did not order any new directives regarding the requirement of schools to be open, it simply created new innovative options for families to have the CHOICE to decide what works best for the health and safety of their student and family," Corcoran said.

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