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The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union, filed suit this week to stop the "reckless and unsafe reopening of schools." Educators from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Orange Counties have joined on as plaintiffs, as well as the NAACP.
The lawsuit comes as concerns grow over the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state and a recent emergency order requiring schools to open next month.
The order issued earlier this month by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran requires that all school districts "must open brick and mortar schools at least five days a week for all students."
At the same time, the order states that it's ultimately up to local superintendents and school boards to decide whether to reopen. But, their funding depends on having a plan to reopen.
In a virtual press conference, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the order forces parents to "make a false choice between education and safety."
The lawsuit urges the Education Commission, along with Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Board of Education, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, to reconsider the order given guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.
Gov. DeSantis has already begun to distance himself from the dispute, telling NPR: "I didn't give any executive order. That was the Department of Education." Further, he says the mandate was intended as a recommendation, not a requirement. In which case, it seems government officials in Florida need to be directed to the nearest dictionary.
Meanwhile, Corcoran has called the lawsuit "frivolous," and claims that the teacher's union either has not read or does not understand the order. He points to Florida statutes that require the state's schools to operate 180 days per year. If schools wish to offer online options, that's fine, according to Corcoran. But teachers argue they don't have the resources to do so, especially if failing to open puts funding in jeopardy.
It's apparent that some type of clarification is needed, and fast, as schools are set to reopen in August.
The complaint was filed in the Eleventh Circuit Court for Miami Dade County.