Miami-Dade, Broward teachers unions: ‘We deserve to go back to safe schools’

WPLG 10 | Hatzel Vela | September 16, 2020

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – United Teachers of Dade and the Broward Teachers Union representatives accused state and school district authorities on Wednesday of negligence and recklessness for rushing to reopen schools without investing in the implementation of safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karla Hernández-Mats, the president of UTD, and Anna Fusco, the president of BTU, said the current conditions are not suitable for a safe return to face-to-face instruction. The union leaders said there are contradictory messages going out to school administrators about social distancing.

“Lives are going to be lost,” Hernández-Mats said during the news conference, adding “They are going to crowd kids in a classroom.”

The unions accused Gov. Ron DeSantis and Richard Corcoran, the state’s commissioner of education, of threatening to take away funding from districts to pressure the reopening of classrooms in October when funding is considered.

“The decision to commence face-to-face instruction needs to be made based on science and the best medical data available. We have always said that. We are teachers: We believe in science; we believe in data — not on partisan politics or short-term economic factors,” Hernández-Mats said.

The Florida Department of Education determines how much funding the district receives by conducting surveys on Oct. 5-9 and Feb. 8-12. The district’s decision to reopen without a clear safety plan and time to train and prepare is based on the link between funding and student population, Hernández-Mats said.

Fusco said the rush to get funding is pushing the districts to reopen classrooms without following the proper safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The union leaders said the parameters requested are within the American Federation of Teachers’ blueprint.

Fusco said one important question to the district has gone unanswered: “What will you do when the deaths start happening?”

More teachers than usual are considering resignations, early retirements, and leaves of absence, Fusco said. Hernández-Mats said veteran teachers are especially concerned about the risk and they want more options for early retirement to avoid risking a coronavirus infection.

“We all deserve to go back into safe schools,” Fusco said, adding “We do not know the cleaning products that are being used … We do not know who will be cleaning intermittently during the day.”

The unions are asking teachers and staff to use “#SafeSchoolsSFL” on social media to highlight safety issues.

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