TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Most schools in Florida have been open about a month now and the state's largest teachers' union is calling it "chaotic and confusing."
In a news conference Friday morning, the Florida Education Association (FEA) announced their demands of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education.
Andrew Spar, the President of the FEA laid out three requests:
- Extend the funding and reporting flexibility until the end of June 2021
- In Florida districts get state funding based on attendance records. The union says attendance is down due to the coronavirus pandemic so they want to ensure funding regardless of attendance.
- Guaranteeing no cuts to the education budget for this school year
- The FEA believes districts will spend more money on resources to increase the quality of education if they know for sure they won't deal with reduced funding for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.
- Provide complete transparency of COVID-19 in schools
- The Florida Education Association wants a public tracker of all COVID-19 cases along with the number of quarantined students per school.
During the news conference, Florida parents talked about the technology failures associated with online learning and the increased anxiety they're seeing in their own children.
Stephanie Yocum, the President of the Polk Education Association said physical school buildings have been gutted of their technological devices to accommodate the online learners leaving kids without any resources in the classroom.
The topic of "simultaneous teaching" was also addressed Friday, a recent point of tension that's been playing out in the Pinellas County school district.
Simultaneous teaching is when educators are teaching in-person students along with online kids at the same time. About half of Pinellas County educators are teaching simultaneously.
"If you’re doing something with kids in the classroom, it’s not always transferable to what you’re doing with kids on the computer," said Spar.
The Florida Education Association has been suing the Governor and Department of Education since August over the Emergency Order to open all physical schools by August 31st. The FEA wants local districts to have control over their reopening plans.
10 Tampa Bay got this response from the Governor's office:
We welcome the FEA’s acknowledgment that flexibility and financial stability, as outlined in the Emergency Order, are important to the progress and success of Florida’s students and public-school system. With this request, the FEA will hopefully end their lawsuit and other expensive, non-educational endeavors. Governor DeSantis will continue to be a champion of education in Florida and do what he feels is in the best interest of our students, parents, and educators.