Florida Education Association sides with school systems over reopening fight

One day after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran cast doubt on the school reopening plan put forward by Hillsborough County, the Florida Education Association is coming to the defense of the school system. 

Earlier in the week, the Hillsborough County school board decided that the first month of school would be held online only, but Corcoran said that plan would violate the state’s previous order to open all schools.  

Florida Education Association president Fredrick Ingram has taken up similar battles with state leaders, specifically saying the state can’t withhold funding from districts who do not offer in-person instruction by the start of the school year. 

“We opened our state, we closed our state, we’ve been reckless with bars and beaches and restaurants and we simply can’t be reckless with our public schools,” he said.

In a letter to the district, Corcoran said decisions need to be based on a school-by-school basis to accommodate parents who want their children to have in-person instruction. 

“We will not stand idly by while they trample over the majority of parents who want to do right by their children. What they did yesterday completely eliminated the flexible options for their families and students and ignored how harmful it can be for students who are experiencing violence, abuse, and food insecurity in their homes, many of whom are already struggling to close achievement gaps,” his statement read. 

However, Ingram believes that local school boards are in the best position to make a final decision on how classes are taught. 

“They know what the positivity rate is, they know what community spread is, they know that they are not yet prepared to have in-person teaching, and so if they made that decision, they should be able to make that decision without the threat of punitive measures from the commissioner of education." 

Hillsborough leaders are currently working with legal staff to see how they should proceed.