Local teachers’ unions are backing the Florida Education Association in demanding the state delay the return to schools.

The union filed a lawsuit against the state Monday, arguing that schools should not reopen until they can do so safely.

The union argues the state should leave reopening plans to the local districts.

Both Sarasota and Charlotte Counties have delayed back-to-school until Aug. 31.

As of today, DeSoto County Schools will have students return on Aug. 10.

Following the news of the lawsuit against the state, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran released a statement arguing that the FEA didn’t understand the emergency order or state law.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Statute 1001.42 required K-12 Schools to operate 180 days a school year ... This emergency order did not order any new directives regarding the requirements 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 students and families,” he said.

Corcoran argued that the order created funding for districts to educate innovatively.

“The FEA frequently states that schools are underfunded, and if this frivolous, reckless lawsuit succeeds, it will eliminate these funding guarantees — completely contradicting their normal outcry,” Corcoran stated.

Here’s what our local teachers’ union leaders had to say:

“FEA’s action gives district superintendents and School Boards additional coverage to divert from the DOE Order of July 6, and perhaps release if FEA prevails in this action. Every teacher and support professional in Charlotte County Public Schools wants to be back in front of their students, but they want to do so safely. Florida infection and death rates are extremely elevated with no sign of diminishing. For the sake of their students, themselves, and their loved ones, they are merely asking the state for the option, approved by their local school board, to teach in ways that observe the CDC guidelines until this pandemic abates.”

— John Jordan, Charlotte Florida Education Association (CFEA) president

“The Florida constitution gives children a right to a ‘safe’ public education. With COVID numbers rising, our schools will not be safe for students or staff. This lawsuit would stop the Governor’s emergency order and allow districts to decide how to provide a safe education for our students and a safe working environment for our staff.”

— Pat Gardner, president of Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association

“This lawsuit is not about getting kids out of school, it’s about opening schools safely. That’s all we’re asking. They follow the health department guidelines, the CDC guidelines, protect the students, their parents and the employees ... I’m hoping the lawsuit will put the pressure on the state government to allow the local governments full control in opening their schools, without undue pressure ... it shouldn’t be ‘open or you’re not going to be funded.’ It’s kind of scary ... we need to be sure we get it right the first time.”

— Jerry Mead, DeSoto County Educators Association

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