Ron DeSantis cameos at education board meeting; reopening order draws dissent

corcoran desantis
DeSantis defended reopening schools, but opposition spilled out from within the Board.

Gov. Ron DeSantis made a surprise appearance at a state Board of Education meeting Wednesday, taking the opportunity to assuage concerns about reopening schools.

The Department of Education has taken heat for ordering classrooms open next month, including from within the Board. The emergency order is creating confusion about whether schools can choose to stay closed, but school districts may close if their plan is approved by local health departments.

The Governor emphasized the need for classrooms to take in students for the benefit of their education and their parents’ livelihood.

“We’re in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, but we’re also in a situation where we need to provide as many options to parents as possible in terms of the education of their kids,” DeSantis said.

Health experts, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have understood that children rarely develop severe COVID-19 cases. And the Governor pointed to recent suggestions that there is little virus spread in day cares as evidence that children rarely transmit the virus to adults.

School districts need to make special accommodations for at-risk employees and students, and parents should have the option to keep their child in virtual classes if they believe schools are unsafe, he added.

But after DeSantis left the meeting, one Board member, Michael Olenick, criticized Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran for signing what was effectively an administrative order without input from the Board of Education.

“With all due respect, this order should’ve been brought to the state Board of Education before it went out,” Olenick said. “We should’ve had the opportunity to discuss this. We didn’t.”

While Corcoran and other Board members touted the flexibility afforded schools by the executive order, Olenick insisted that requiring the Department of Health’s approval to close a school district ran contrary to flexibility and that some local health departments would likely deny some school districts’ requests.

“Please, Commissioner, the executive order was a good idea, but it wasn’t. It came out as an emergency order, it became to some degree political in many people’s eyes, so let’s backtrack on that brick and mortar and keep the rest of the order intact,” he added.

The member also noted the order came out hours after President Donald Trump tweeted that all schools must reopen in the fall.

“An emergency order was weeks in the offing,” Corcoran responded, sarcastically saying he had coordinated it with Trump. “I can’t control when or what the President tweets.”

While opening the Board’s discussion, DeSantis also touted the education achievements made during the Legislative Session, which included $400 million to raise the average base salary for new teachers and $100 million in pay raises for veteran teachers. The Governor approved those programs despite nixing a historic $1 billion from the state spending plan.

“We knew that it was going to require a significant financial commitment, but we really believed that it was the right thing to do, not only to reward teachers who were doing a good job, but also to continue to bring good people into the profession and ultimately benefit our students’ education.”

Despite Florida’s efforts to provide virtual learning for students, education experts and the Governor say children fell behind in learning.

“Heck, if you didn’t fall behind, we wouldn’t have worked so hard to get the teacher’s salary increases,” DeSantis quipped. “We believe that that teacher there is really significant to a child’s well-being.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • S.B. Anthony

    July 15, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    There’s only question to ask yourself if you’re considering whether to send your kid to school in the fall. Will you ever forgive yourself for killing your kid if it gets sick with Covid or for killing your parents if your kid comes home with the virus and gives it to them?

  • Sonja Fitch

    July 15, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Duffus Desantis and cockroach Corcoran go now and sit in a day care center with children!!! Betcha you won’t. Because duffus Desantis and cockroach Corcoran know you are going to be infected! Do not make our children be MURDERS for your sick nazi bs!!! Shut down the state! Then begin transitioning our children into schools!

  • Frankie M.

    July 15, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    How much “new” money did Ronnie give teachers in raises? Not money he reallocated from FSRP funds and the Best and Brightest program like a shell game. I’m guessing it’s not nearly the $500M he boasts. But that doesn’t make for nearly as good of a good soundbite.

  • Tjb

    July 15, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    If the schools are opened, will the state pay for frequent ( weekly) Covid 19 testing of students, teachers and the caregivers of the children? Will they pay for their medical costs if they have the virus? Also, I understand the DeSantis’ children are not of school age, but to demonstrate the safety of open schools, is DeSantis willing to have his children attend a crowded public school 8 hours a day, 5 days a week starting this August?

Comments are closed.


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