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Teachers’ union says DeSantis’ EO prohibiting school mask mandates panders to divisive politics

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Alachua County Education Association sent an email out to its members yesterday, saying that the union “continues to advocate for your COVID Leave and the safest working conditions possible.” In the email, Carmen Ward, President of ACEA, told union members that the school board’s School Health Advisory Committee just recommended that masks be required in county schools and concluded, “Politicians should not be putting our students in harms [sic] way to pander to divisive politics [sic] see FEA’s press release attached.”

The press release from the Florida Education Association (FEA) said, “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.”

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The release continued, “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.”

The FEA then said that DeSantis has “mandat[ed] a pay plan that requires teachers with 15 years of experience to be paid the same as a first-year teacher,” but DeSantis does not set teacher salaries; however, he supported increased funding for teachers, passed by the legislature, that set a minimum salary across the state. All other teacher salaries are negotiated between the unions and the school districts.

The FEA also said that DeSantis should “lead on the issues where we can all agree.” The release says that the majority of schools in Florida do not have a school nurse, but funding from the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County is providing 30 nurses for Alachua County schools, on top of the nurses already in those schools. Pasco County has reported a similar grant from the health department; it is unclear whether other counties received similar grants. The FEA also blames the governor for low student-to-counselor ratios and schools with leaky roofs: “Right now, Gov. DeSantis could unite all Floridians by championing these health and safety issues”

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