Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted teachers’ unions for pushing school closures across the country during the pandemic in a Friday speech.
The governor pinned the unions for pressuring state legislatures to keep schools closed and prohibit in-person learning at the Heritage Foundation’s first annual “Educational Freedom Report Card” event. He said many states lifted children’s access to education in part because of political pressure from interest groups who pushed for school closures.
“You had to make the decision, do kids even have access to education at all during COVID and many of these states decided that that was not something that they were willing to fight for,” the governor said. “Obviously they had a lot of political pressure from interest groups that support them like teachers unions to lock these kids out of the school, to force them into things that the remote, which was not working at all, you know we do a lot of virtual education through the years so we were better than anybody.”
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He said restraining kids to virtual learning was “unacceptable” and ineffective in providing them with a proper education given that schools had a small transmission rate and the virus provided minimal risk to kids. He said the unions ignored the data and performed stunts and protests in front of the Department of Education over his decision in June 2020 to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year. (RELATED: DeSantis Opponent Charlie Crist Picks Carla Hernandez-Mats As Running Mate)
“It was very, very difficult just in terms of the politics and the media, the Left, the bureaucracy, they did not want to see the kids in school and so we would have these stunts pulled by unions in Florida where they would actually bring coffins and put ’em down in front of the Department of Education building in Florida,” DeSantis added. “We had down in Miami, they would bring hearses and all this stuff and they were basically trying to tell parents ‘your kids go to school, they’re gonna get sick and then they’re gonna die.’ And that was false, I think they knew it was false but if they didn’t, what does that say about the fact that they’re involved in education?”
The governor said fear and special interest groups would not “drive policy making,” saying the primary interest of his administration was the wellbeing of the kids. He said the majority of teachers who were not members of the unions advocated for a return to in-person learning.
“Just think about it, you dedicated your life to this and then you have a union saying you’re not really that important, that they can just sit at home on Zoom and it’s the same thing,” he continued. “I mean, to me, I view that as a slap in the face to the whole teaching profession that they were taking that position.”