In a continuing legal battle over who’s in charge of reopening public schools during COVID-19, the Florida Education Association has collected a line of support from a national teachers union and local teacher unions across the state.
In a legal brief, 35 teacher unions in Florida, as well as the nationwide American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have a “profound interest in ensuring that the Florida Constitution’s guarantees of a ‘safe and secure’ public school system are fulfilled, particularly in the midst of this pandemic.”
The 35 unions in Florida collectively serve some 187,900 members. The court records say that a majority of the unions are affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, or the Florida Education Association.
The FEA is facing off in the lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other officials. (The additional teacher unions in the court case are not formal plaintiffs or defendants.)
The AFT is not the only national organization with an interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. Last week, the NAACP and the NAACP – Florida State Conference joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit challenges an emergency order signed by Corcoran in early July, which mandates that brick-and-mortar pubic schools be open for at least five days a week. Florida families have an option of in-person instruction or virtual learning.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the FEA believes the mandate risks the safety of students, teachers, and staff, and says that the Florida Constitution allows local school boards to be in charge or reopening schools — not the state.
Leon Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson on Monday granted a temporary injunction of the emergency order, striking out language that mandates school districts to open brick-and-mortar schools. That was a win for the FEA.
But hours later, the other side filed an appeal of the temporary injunction, leaving the issues, at least for now, in a holding pattern.
In a letter Tuesday to DeSantis, six Florida lawmakers who represent parts of Hillsborough County say that “our state, in what is becoming habit, has again stripped local governments of the authority needed to make the decisions they need to help keep us all safe.”
The lawmakers, all Democrats, are: State Sens. Janet Cruz and Darryl Rouson, and state Reps. Dianne Hart, Fentrice Driskell, Susan Valdes, and Adam Hattersley.
The letter asked DeSantis to “agree to accept Hillsborough County School’s request to delay the opening of brick and mortar schools for four weeks,” among other requests.
The letter can be seen on Senator Cruz’s Twitter.