EDITORIAL: Governor DeSantis, We Are Not Your Political Pawns

Angelina Astic, Copy Editor

On Mar. 13, the lives of my fellow peers and I transformed as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shut down. In the interest of protecting our people governors around the country implemented school closures, mask mandates and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Seven months, one million deaths worldwide and over 700,000 cases in Florida later, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made the reckless decision to lift safety precautions and force schools to reopen. 

On Sep. 25, DeSantis announced that he lifted COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, as well as fines in relation to mask mandates. That same day, Miami Dade-County Public Schools received a letter from Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, under the premises of Emergency Order 2020-EO-06. The letter mandated that  MDCPS reopen in-person school instruction on Oct. 5, instead of the planned Oct. 22 date. 

As a Republican governor, DeSantis has sought the support of President Donald J. Trump — an understandable desire as the governor may plan to run for reelection after his current term. Withal, the way he has achieved that support, putting the lives and futures of millions of Floridians at risk, is nothing short of deplorable. 

At a Trump rally in Florida the week of Sep. 25, the President professed his wishes for the country to return to a state of normalcy sentiments which his supporters mirrored. 

That very next day, DeSantis responded in more ways than one, announcing his executive order lifting many precautionary measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Soon after making these statements, Corcoran sent a letter to the Superintendent of MDCPS Schools Alberto Carvalho and Chair Perla Tabares Hantman. This letter, which reads as a patronizing and scolding statement, cited Emergency Order 2020-EO-06.

This order demanded that MDCPS reevaluate their reopening plans and dates, stating that the choice to send students to brick-and-mortar schools is an imperative and necessary option, regardless of a pandemic. 

Without a doubt, the choice of whether to send one’s children to school or keep them at home and continue distance learning remains essential; especially for children who are victims of violence, abuse and those who continuously struggle with food insecurity. Providing parents with that option empowers them to make the decisions that best serve their families and livelihoods. 

However, an egregious statement made in the letter serves as an abhorrent reflection on the state of Florida and the Florida Department of Education. Corcoran explained that the order provides school districts who comply with the order and reopen schools with guaranteed funding that would not be made available otherwise. This funding is vital to the operation of MDCPS and countless other school districts across the state of Florida. Without it, the county would receive a financial blow that would take years to recover from. 

Simply put, this letter served as an ultimatum. Reopen schools or have indispensable funding revoked. DeSantis, Corcoran and other leaders do not intend to protect Florida’s youth. They have a vested interest in receiving a stamp of approval from the Commander-in-chief.  

DeSantis continues to answer at the beck-and-call of the President, without fully stopping and seeing the path of destruction he continues to leave behind. We, the students, are being blatantly used as political pawns — except this game could mean life or death. 

Florida, a swing state in presidential elections, remains one of the most imperative to win in a presidential election, explaining DeSantis’ involvement in the Trump campaign.

Rather than using disgraceful tactics like threatening to revoke funding from the fourth largest school district in the U.S., please institute policies and measures that will protect the people of Florida. Earn their vote by earning their trust and advocating on behalf of them. 

With all due respect to both DeSantis and Corcoran, maybe “roll up your sleeves” and work to make your state safe for all Floridians. Take a page out of your own book and see the good you can do with your positions. This fight against COVID-19 is nowhere near over — you still have the power to make us proud.