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OPINION

EDITORIAL: Teachers take risks as governor misleads

The News Herald

Local teachers scrubbed desks and disinfected classrooms in preparation of students’ return to school last Thursday.

But despite the real risks that teachers and school personnel now face, local teachers are readying for the challenge – both for their students and themselves.

Bay County students/parents had three choices – most chose brick-and-mortar attendance.

Despite all the uncertainty driven from the top-down from Tallahassee – and above – our teachers stand ready. 

If only Florida’s public officials were as forthright and courageous as the state’s school teachers are. 

Contrast their resolve with that of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been out of his depth for months in handling Florida’s record-breaking numbers of cases and deaths due to the virus. While teachers all over Florida are heading back into their classrooms to confront COVID face to face, the governor hasn’t even been willing to be honest about his own administration’s mismanagement and misinformation regarding the ongoing public health crisis.

More:BCSO prepared for school traffic Thursday amid pandemic, warns motorists to be mindful

Last week, the Palm Beach Post reported that a directive from DeSantis muzzled county health directors from advising local school districts. Health directors in multiple counties (who are physicians in their local communities) said they were instructed by state bureaucrats not to offer direction to their local school districts as to whether schools could safely open. 

Regardless of what your opinion is on schools reopening, replacing the knowledge and advice of local medical professionals with top-down directives issued by untrained political appointees is dangerous and unacceptable.

When questioned about his administration’s muzzling of health directors, DeSantis bumbled out with the false claim that health departments weren’t supposed to serve an advisory role to local school districts. It was an absurd excuse. 

More:Most Bay County students still enrolled in physical schools despite pandemic

And no doubt, DeSantis certainly knows that such overreach is fundamentally wrong. Had such a directive come from the Obama administration or a liberal governor in order to gag local doctors, DeSantis and his supporters would have been justifiably outraged. Political agendas supplanting public health professionals is simply wrong, no matter what partisan label it carries. 

This sort of sorry leadership is especially disappointing in the face of tough and hopeful teachers like so many you can find just by cruising Facebook and seeing their post about readying their rooms and - as usual - going out-of-pocket for specialty items for their kids.

Florida’s teachers are taking real risks – with no hazard pay and most likely with inadequate supplies and safety gear. Many are being forced to make even tougher choices about whether to gamble with their health, or be forced to leave behind jobs and children that they love. 

More:Walton County public schools re-open; educators, students face COVID-19 realities

These teachers are the Floridians on the front lines of our state’s newest front in the battle against COVID-19. We don’t truly know what is going to happen to them or what price some might pay for returning to the classroom. 

DeSantis would do well to understand they’re not doing it in service of his personal political agenda. 

This editorial is a collaboration of the editorial boards of USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida.

Brittney Grady sits with her daughter Madison while meeting her new second grade teacher, Pam Quimuyog on Aug. 14, 2020 at Northside Elementary.