As Covid-19 cases surge and our public schools face overwhelming uncertainty about what will happen come January, the Florida Education Association (FEA) urges Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to listen to the chorus of voices crying out: Provide stability for our students, for parents and educators, and for districts struggling to cope with an unprecedented pandemic.
“School districts need to know they’ll have the funds to operate without severe cuts. Parents who want their children to learn at home need to know that they’ll still have that option after Jan. 8 — in their own districts, with teachers they know and trust. Students need stability, not dislocation and disruption,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.
Speaking before the State Board of Education on Wednesday for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Wakulla Superintendent Robert Pearce outlined critical requirements for the continued success of our public schools and students, including: stable funding; continued access to innovative options such as distance learning; continued investment in educator salaries; increased mental health services for students; and a re-examination of high-stakes standardized testing for students and the assessment and grading of schools.
The FEA maintains that high-stakes standardized testing and school grades, which were suspended for 2020, should not be reinstated. Schools must not be forced to focus on assessment at the expense of learning. That is particularly true as the pandemic continues.
Florida reached a milestone over the weekend with more than 1,000 cases of Covid-19 reported in children 17 and younger in a single day. Nationwide and in Florida, case numbers for all ages are on the rise.
“This is not normal,” FEA President Spar said. “Let’s stop pretending that it is and focus on helping kids and families, not on getting students back on school campuses so the state can administer high-stakes tests. Let’s put our children ahead of high-stakes testing for once.”
What students need is the support and opportunity to learn — online if their parents desire or at safe schools with reduced class sizes, social distancing, proper protective equipment, access to mental health services and a registered nurse on every campus.
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 and graduate students, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.