Teacher union discusses ‘chaos and instability’ in Florida schools

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida’s largest teacher union, The Florida Education Association (FEA) held a a virtual press conference Friday to urge state leaders to address the “chaos and instability” in public schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

“A month into the academic year, we hear daily reports of learning conditions that short-change students and leave teachers in tears, of student-teacher ratios that undermine quality education, and of fear that conditions will grow worse for students and educators if action is not taken quickly,” the FEA said in a news release before the event.

At the press conference Friday, a number of parents and educators spoke about the challenges they face with both virtual and in-person learning, and other activities.

“We’ve definitely had challenges, we had to cancel football games, we had to cancel sports so it’s been hard on the teachers, the parents and the students,” said Orange County Public school board member, Angie Gallo.

“We continually step up. We are working double time to provide the quality education that our students deserve,” Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk Education Association added. “We need the mandates to be on our side and on the kids’ side.”

The FEA’s president, Andrew Spar, has called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to protect per-student funding as schools grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding went up $137 per student this summer to $7,793 for each pupil.

“We believe a full school-year approach would assist districts in achieving the goal of retaining and hiring the personnel needed to staff the various ways we are educating students,” Spar said in a letter to the governor.

Spar, who was at the press conference Friday, also called for more transparency when it comes to reporting COVID-19 case numbers. In August, the state removed a report it had published showing coronavirus cases in day cares, schools and colleges across the state during a critical two-week period in August.

Dr. Raul Pino, the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said the number of COVID-19 cases in schools were lower than expected.

“I can tell you I’m pleasantly surprised that the numbers in our schools continue to be this low. Although, we have a large number of people in quarantine, we have very few in isolation,” he said.

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