As educators across Florida scramble to adjust to a controversial emergency order signed by Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran — directing all districts to provide in-person instruction five days a week — Corcoran says the order gives complete flexibility and accountability to school districts.
The commissioner then claimed that news sources didn’t read the order and misreported on it — similar to the way President Donald Trump rebukes the media.
“Guess what they hadn’t done? None of them had read the order. Not one of those sources that were printing stuff, and writing stuff, and working themselves in a frenzy—I’m talking in the print media,” Corcoran said in a State Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
He then immediately back-tracked, saying, “Now, some of the print media got it right.” He referenced Jeffery Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times as his only example.
The comments came in response to a critique of a line in the emergency order that reads “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.”
State Board of Education member Michael Olenick, who was participating by phone, called the language contradictory to the promise of “flexibility.”
“Whether it’s Orange, whether it’s Broward—if they think it’s in their best interest that they need to close schools, then we should be supportive of that,” Olenick said.
“With all due respect, this order should have been brought to the state board of education before it went out. We should have had the opportunity to discuss this. We didn’t.”
“What this emergency order does is that it gives complete flexibility, complete financial stability, and complete accountability” Corcoran said. “And part of that flexibility is if a parent would like to have their child in a bricks-and-mortar classroom with a teacher in front of them, five days a week, they absolutely should have that option.”
On the same day that Corcoran signed the “emergency order,” President Donald Trump tweeted his preference for in-school instruction in standard Trump style.
“ALL SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!,” the tweet read.
At the State Board meeting, Corcoran joked that he and President Trump had coordinated the mandate and the tweet, then saying “obviously, I am being completely tongue-in-cheek.”
“The last thing you want to do is shove people in if they’re just not comfortable,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who attended the board of education meeting briefly on Wednesday.
DeSantis says that the push for reopening brick-and-mortar schools is less about the economy, though that does play a part, but he is more concerned about children’s mental health.
“Yes, some of it is linked to the economy—particularly lower-income families that may not have childcare options and may want to go back to work and all that—and that’s part of it, but for me it’s more about the risk to the development of our schoolchildren,” said DeSantis.
Some counties in South Florida believe that the risk of COVID-19 cases is too high to reopen brick-and-mortar classrooms.