Florida students have been learning from home since the coronavirus pandemic first began, and whether and how they can go back to the classroom has been the subject of vigorous debate.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have harped on the need to get children back on campuses, directing county school boards to come up with reopening plans and get the doors open ASAP.
They’ve gotten some flack from all sides, including a lawsuit from the state’s largest teacher union, and as school districts have polled parents on their wishes, the results have often been mixed.
There was no gray area on Tuesday.
Even though there weren’t any questions about reopening schools on primary ballots, voters made their answer clear.
Across the state, voters flocked to candidates who supported reopening school campuses this year and rejected those who pitched another nine weeks or more of virtual learning as the best course of action.
In Hillsborough County, incumbents Steve Cona, Lynn Gray and Tammy Shamburger face runoff elections after voting to keep schools closed despite more than half of parents making clear to the board they wanted their kids back in the classroom.
In Okaloosa County, Superintendent Marcus Chambers squashed a comeback bid by Ray Sansom almost solely defined by his vigorously opposition to Chambers’ reopening plan. It wasn’t even close.
In Polk County, School Board member Billy Townsend is on his way out of office after falling to political newcomer William Allen 52-48.
And in Jefferson County, Eydie Tricquet is set for the general election ballot, where she’ll appear alongside incumbent Marianne Arbulu. Arbulu may have switched parties to avoid embarrassment on Tuesday, but given the trends it’s likely she’ll be switching jobs in November.
The returns show that the sentiment is the same in red counties, blue counties, small counties and large counties: Parents want their kids in schools and anyone who stands in the way will face a reckoning at the ballot box.