Florida teacher’s union believes Hillsborough Co. key to victory

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 5:11 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The state added 4,201 new virus cases Wednesday, as Florida’s teacher’s union was back in court seeking an injunction to keep in-class learning closed after failing to reach a compromise in court-ordered mediation.

The union told the court state health officials aren’t doing their job to help make safe decisions.

The first witness was Hillsborough County school board member, Tamara Shamburger.

The Florida Education Association is trying to prove local districts are being forced to make unsafe reopening decisions or face the threat of losing millions in state funding.

“My understanding of the testimony from the medical experts was that it was simply unsafe to open our school building, or any building, for anyone at that time,” said Shamburger.

Hillsborough submitted a plan to reopen August 24, then voted to push back the opening a month.

The State objected.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told us the county would lose funding if it delayed in an interview last week.

“They automatically lose the categorical of transportation because they are considered virtual students. They automatically lose class size categorical because they are not in classes,” said Corcoran.

Then the union called 51-year-old Biology teacher James Lis.

“I do not feel safe personally,” said Lis.

Lis and his family live with his 81-year-old mother in law.

He broke down on the stand when asked if he would report to school Friday as ordered.

“I can’t put my family at risk. I can’t put my mother in law at risk. And it’s a serious risk, but more so for her. And I would resign,” said Lis.

The reopening order says decisions are supposed to be made with advice from local health officials, but during testimony Department of Health Chief of Staff Courtney Coppola testified the department wouldn’t advise schools whether it is safe to reopen.

“You’re not going to say whether or not school districts should be open or reopen, correct?” Asked FEA attorney Kendall Coffey.

“Correct,” replied Coppola.

The case will continue Thursday, with a quick decision expected from the judge.

19 districts are slated to open next week and ten more on August 31st.

Since August 5, there have been 7,472 positive cases in children 17 and under.

73 were hospitalized during the same period.

Copyright 2020 Capitol News Service. All rights reserved.

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