Socialist Worker

Florida teachers resist unsafe return to school

Issue No. 2715

A previous protest organised by the Florida Education Association

A previous protest organised by the Florida Education Association (Pic: Florida Education Association )


The biggest teaching union in Florida has filed a lawsuit to challenge an order to reopen schools next month.

The news came on Monday of last week, as the state reported over 10,000 new virus cases for the sixth consecutive day.

It is one of the worst-hit states in the US.

But its education commissioner has issued an emergency order requiring schools to be open at least five days a week from next month.

Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said the order is “reckless”. 

“The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida,” he added.

“The virus is surging out of control. He needs to accept the evolving science. 

“It now appears that kids ten and older may pass along the coronavirus as easily as adults.”

A survey of nearly 50,000 people by the union earlier this month found that over three quarters thought their school could not reopen safely next month. 

Distance 

Welcome to strike country - inside the spreading US teachers strikes
Welcome to strike country - inside the spreading US teachers' strikes
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And a majority would prefer to continue distance learning instead of returning to schools.

Some teachers and supporters have held protests demanding a delay to the start of schools reopening. Placards read, “I can’t teach from a coffin,” and, “Until cases decline, stay online.”

President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t reopen. 

But he would need approval from Congress in order to hold back the money.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos went so far as to claim that “kids are actually stoppers of the disease” in an interview earlier this month. Analysis by the Washington Post newspaper showed her claims to be based on a German study that has not been peer reviewed. 

Trump and his business backers want a return to profit‑making—and that means getting parents back to work. But there is resistance in many states.

The two biggest school districts—Los Angeles and San Diego —have said they won’t allow students back to classrooms.


Economic crisis deepens 

The Black Lives Matter movement is deepening the political and economic crisis for the US ruling class.

Over 150,000 people in the US have died from COVID-19, with more than 1,100 added to this death toll every day. 

Around 20 million jobless people were waiting for Congress to decide this week whether to extend a programme that supplements benefits by up to £466 a week. 

It has been a key life lifeline through the pandemic because the basic scheme pays only about 40 percent of wages. 

The top-up benefit expired last weekend but talks on a replacement were continuing as Socialist Worker went to press. 

And even if there is a new scheme it will certainly pay less.

This will increase pressure to return to unsafe workplaces. 

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is outraged that “The original unemployment benefits actually paid people to stay home”.

Senator Ted Cruz claimed, “I’ve spoken to small business owners all over the state of Texas. 

“They’re calling their waiters and waitresses, they’re calling their busboys, and they won’t come back.”

In fact there are 14 million more unemployed workers than vacancies. 

As the multiple crises grow, there has to be resistance and socialist politics. 


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