Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday continued to defend his decision to require public schools to reopen in August for in-person learning, saying he would “absolutely” send his own children back to classrooms if they were old enough.
During a round-table meeting held at a school for special needs students, the republican governor restated the reasons why reopening Florida’s schools is necessary, including the difficulties of distance learning for special education students, the heavy burden on parents who have to earn a living while taking care of children, and low-income families that rely on school meals for nutrition.
DeSantis moved on to say that although his children aren’t old enough, he would still feel comfortable sending them to school for in-person learning.
“I would have no problem, and I would absolutely have, you know, my kids in school because I do think that it’s safe to do so. I believe that, because this is something that’s very low risk for kids,” DeSantis said. He and his wife Casey have a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, and a baby girl who was born this March.
“My wife and I both would have a lot of confidence in having our kids in the school system and that will obviously happen, you know, as they get a little bit older,” said DeSantis. “I know it’s a time where there’s a lot of anxiety out there. I think that having these choices hopefully can reduce some of that anxiety.”
DeSantis’ remarks come as The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, filed a lawsuit seeking to block the reopening of Florida’s schools.
The July 20 lawsuit asserts that ordering schools to return to in-person instruction amid an ongoing pandemic is a violation of Florida’s state constitution, which mandates the provision of “safe” and “secure” schools. It also seeks a declaration from the court that the state’s order has put “arbitrary and capricious demands” on public schools.
“Gov. DeSantis needs a reality check, and we are attempting to provide one,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement. “Everyone wants schools to reopen, but we don’t want to begin in-person teaching, face an explosion of cases and sickness, then be forced to return to distance learning.”
Several teachers’ unions in Florida have written to DeSantis, requesting him to allow schools to remain closed until the pandemic is brought down to a less threatening level. In response, DeSantis said the order was simply meant to make sure families have that education option if they decide in-person learning is best for their children.
“We do believe fundamentally in providing parents with the choice. And that choice can be to continue with distance learning or to choose to go back into the classroom where students can get face-to-face instruction,” DeSantis said.