TALLAHASSEE — Schools should be the safest place in Florida. No matter if we live in urban South Florida, in the rural Panhandle or somewhere in-between, we all want our children to be healthy and safe, and for learning to continue uninterrupted for every child. In a state as large and diverse as Florida, decisions on health and safety will not come in one-size-fits-all solutions, and that is why it is important for the will of the people, as expressed by their locally elected officials, to determine decisions regarding health and safety in schools.
Unfortunately, through his words and actions, Gov. DeSantis has made clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities, based on input from parents, school employees, the available Covid data, and guidance from the medical community and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Whether it is mandating a pay plan that requires teachers with 15 years of experience to be paid the same as a first-year teacher or telling locally elected officials they cannot enforce recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Gov. DeSantis continues to think that Tallahassee knows best what all Floridians need. We reject that kind of thinking. Instead, we ask Gov. DeSantis to allow all Florida’s citizens to have a voice by empowering the elected leaders of cities, counties and school districts to make health and safety decisions locally based on their unique needs and circumstances,” said Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andrew Spar.
Instead of focusing on the issues that divide Floridians when it comes to health and safety, we would like to see Gov. DeSantis lead on the issues where we all can agree. The majority of schools in Florida do not have a school nurse; the student-to-counselor ratio remains far too high for students to get the individual attention and mental health assistance they deserve; students in all corners of the state still attend schools with leaky roofs and unreliable air-conditioning. Right now, Gov. DeSantis could unite all Floridians by championing these health and safety issues.
Between state resources and the $15 billion in federal funds for Covid relief earmarked for education in Florida, we have the funds necessary to make real, meaningful investments to improve the daily health and safety of all Florida’s students while still respecting the freedom of locally elected officials to do what is best for their own communities. It is time for Gov. DeSantis to lead and unite us as Floridians.
CONTACT: Joni Branch, firstname.lastname@example.org, (850) 201-3223
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.