Judge weighs legal arguments in lawsuit by teachers union over opening Florida schools

As thousands of children return to classrooms throughout Florida, local school officials, teachers and doctors spent Wednesday picking apart a state mandate requiring schools to resume in-person instruction this month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have no business opening schools by a certain deadline, and certainly not by Aug. 31,” Orlando pediatrician Annette Nielsen said during a daylong video hearing in a legal challenge to an emergency order by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran requiring schools to reopen five days a week in August. “We’re simply not ready. We don’t have the things in place to open.”

The Florida Education Association statewide teachers union last month filed a lawsuit alleging that Corcoran’s July 6 order violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public schools. The Orange County teachers union filed a similar legal complaint, and Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson consolidated the cases.


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The Spin: Teachers Union, Mayor Lightfoot and a new game of brinksmanship? | Durkin says GOP candidates will use ComEd, Madigan as talking points in November election

Reopening schools for the looming new academic year already was gearing up to be a political brawl. But things amped up today as the Chicago Teachers Union — concerned that in-class learning would be dangerous amid the coronavirus pandemic — was planning a House of Delegates meeting next week, a required move on the road to a potential strike.

Anyone who recalls the battles and brinksmanship that played out between union leaders and the mayor during last fall’s knows to brace themselves for a battle.

Parents and guardians were looking to a Friday deadline to inform Chicago Public Schools whether their students would attend in-person classes or stay home. But, as my colleagues reported, sources say CPS — whose CEO and Board of Education is appointed by the mayor — is expected to announce an all-remote learning plan as soon as Wednesday. A source told the Tribune the shift is

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State Gives Union City Guidance To Start School Classes

UNION CITY, CA — If the New Haven Unified School District wants to hold classes in schools instead of online this fall, State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan on Tuesday outlined the state’s waiver process for K-6 schools.

Alameda County is currently on California’s COVID-19 coronavirus “Watch List.”

Pan, the former health officer for Alameda County, said K-6 schools can apply for a waiver to begin in-person instruction if they are located in a county that meets several criteria in spite of being on the state’s Watch List.

Individual schools must submit a site-specific plan to keep students and staff safe, taking into account input from interest groups like labor unions and parent organizations. Those schools must then publicly post their plan and submit it to their local health officer to apply for a waiver.

California Department of Public Health officials will then review each application on a case-by-case basis, taking

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Summit Teachers’ Union Expresses Concerns About School Reopening

SUMMIT, NJ — After revealing details of its school reopening plan last month (see them here), the Summit public schools planned to post the final plan on the district’s website (here) on Tuesday and host a forum remotely this Thursday.

But Summit’s teachers’ union, like certain other teachers’ unions locally and around the state, was concerned about aspects of returning to school in light of the coronavirus pandemic, asked about ventilation in the buildings, and more. They submitted a letter to the school board that’s posted below.

Last month, the district said it would allow students the option of either attending five days per week, single session with no lunch, or being all remote (the state has said that every district must offer an all-remote option).

This Thursday at 7 p.m., the district will host a “community forum regarding the district’s reopening plan.” Details of how to access it (via

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Saint Xavier Faculty Union Hopes Voice Won’t Be Silenced For Good

CHICAGO, IL – There are days when Michael O’Keeffe is hopeful that the union that has represented faculty at Saint Xavier University for 50 years will again be restored at some time in the near future. There are other days, however, when the idea of being an official part of the school’s community faces more of a grim reality.

Two months have passed since university president Laurie Joyner announced in an email that Chicago’s oldest Catholic university would no longer recognize the school’s faculty union as a collective bargaining unit. Now, with the start of the academic year a matter of weeks from happening, O’Keeffe – who co-chairs the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC) at Saint Xavier – is hoping that a letter that has been circulated to local priests and the Sisters of Mercy will help to bring change and restore the union in the eyes of university administrators.


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Teachers union threatens ‘safety strikes’ before Biden speech

The American Federation of Teachers called Tuesday for “safety strikes” as a last resort if school reopening plans don’t meet demands for keeping educators healthy and safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Union President Randi Weingarten delivered that battle cry during an address to union members, adding fresh tension to fraught schoolhouse debates as President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden take sides on opposite ends of the fight.

The national labor union floated the prospect of teacher strikes two days before Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech Thursday to the group’s 1.7 million members.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is also expected to discuss concerns about schools reopening in a discussion with Weingarten on Tuesday night.

“Let’s be clear: Just as we have done with our health care workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of students

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Florida college courses should remain online-only in fall, faculty union says

Courses at Florida’s college and universities should remain online-only this fall, said the union that represents faculty members across the state, citing fears of the spread of coronavirus.

Leaders from the United Faculty of Florida, which represents instructors at all 12 public universities and 14 state colleges, and the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said Monday during a press conference that sending students back to campus next month would be dangerous.

As of Monday, the state has reported 432,747 coronavirus cases and 5,931 deaths since the pandemic began. The first day of fall classes varies between campuses. The University of Central Florida plans to return Aug. 24.

“Opening the colleges and universities at this time can only make things worse, and it is a step in the wrong direction,” said Jaffar Ali Shahul-Hameed, a vice president for the union and an associate professor at Florida Gulf Coast

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Illinois Teachers Union Says School Year Should Start Online

WESTMONT, IL — The union representing teachers in Illinois called for the school year to begin with remote learning. A return to in-person instruction is currently too risky, according to the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

In a statement issued Monday, the statewide teachers union provided a list of 10 safety measures that every school district and college needs for its members to feel safe returning to the classroom. Too many schools cannot achieve “critical safety benchmarks,” it said.

“We arrived at this position by having talked to our members extensively about how do we do this,” Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said in the statement. “Our primary concern is keeping everybody safe — not only our members, but our students, their families and their communities. At this point, our recommendation is that schools should return to online or remote learning for the beginning of the school year. It

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PA Teachers Union Urges State To Plan For Online Start To School

HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union is asking state officials to direct public schools to plan for an online start to school if the spread of coronavirus doesn’t slow by the fall.

SEA President Rich Askey, in a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, said it is “extremely important for Pennsylvania’s public schools to plan for the distinct possibility that further increases in COVID-19 cases will make it impossible to safely reopen Pennsylvania’s schools for in-person instruction.

Askey, in his letter, emphasized that educators want to return to the classroom. However, health risks associated with COVID-19 “may be impossible to prevent in school buildings if the current increase in Pennsylvania cases continues.”

He pointed to an “increasing number of Pennsylvania educators and parents” who are concerned that reopening schools for in-person instruction poses significant health risks.

The full letter can be seen here.


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Here’s how California will cut pay under each union agreement

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration instituted pay cuts across state government in a six-week bargaining sprint that ended July 1.

All of the agreements, which the state Human Resources Department has posted online, use a personal leave program to accomplish the savings. The program institutes immediate savings but the leave time adds to the state’s long-term liabilities.

Under most of the agreements, the state is cutting workers’ pay by 9.23% — the equivalent of two days of work each month — starting with this month’s paychecks. In exchange the state is giving workers two days off they can take whenever they want to, even years from now.

The state also is suspending the contributions workers make toward their retirement health care. That eases how the cuts affect take-home pay by letting employees keep more of their money.

Many of the agreements vary in some degree from that template. Some unions are

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