Superintendent Rocky Hanna said by blaming unions, the governor is creating a “false narrative” of public schools.
Tallahassee Democrat | By Ana Goñi-Lessan | August 24, 2022
Local educators are criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent attacks on teachers’ unions.
In his most recent bid to fix Florida’s teacher shortage, DeSantis blamed the state’s 9,000 teacher deficit on credentials insisted upon by unions.
“The Governor’s quest for popularity and political gain knows no bounds,” wrote Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna in a Facebook post Monday evening. “This calculated and intentional attack on public schools, centered around complete untruths, has now become part of his legacy.”
In a video DeSantis posted to his Twitter profile on Aug. 11, the governor says “for too long, the requirements for being a teacher have been too rigid, with union bosses insisting that all educators get certain credentials that often have little impact on teaching performance.”
In the Facebook post, Hanna countered that the state legislature, governor and department of education set the requirements and credentials for someone to become a certified classroom teacher.
Hanna said by blaming unions, the governor is creating a “false narrative” of public schools.
“This video is just another example of the governor and his propaganda machine disseminating misinformation and lies,” Hanna said.
Scott Mazur, head of the Leon Classroom Teachers Association, agreed with Hanna and said the governor’s talking points aren’t what is happening in schools.
“The teachers unions have been advocating for pro-public education policies for the last 20 years, yet the legislature has passed things that have not met the needs of our public schools,” Mazur said. “To blame the union that is trying to ensure that the legislature meets their constitutional requirement is not only false, but it’s laughable.”
Hanna came to the defense of the unions weeks after he criticized the combativeness between LCTA and the district during bargaining.
In May, the district and the union had not yet reached a tentative agreement, and Hanna had to attend a Florida State Board of Education meeting in Key West to explain why.
The district and LCTA are currently negotiating for this school year.
Mazur maintains the role of the union is to advocate for those that need resources and serve students.
“It’s only by sheer determination by the staff and the support of those who care about our public schools that we’re able to do great things for our students,” he said.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said the latest attack on unions is a continuation of DeSantis undermining and demeaning teachers and support staff in public schools.
“It would be better if the governor spent his energy working with educators in solving the shortages, so we can ensure that every school in Florida has the teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and other staff that our students need,” Spar said. “That’s what we are focused on, and it’s what parents and the community want.”
Sean Willett, a high school English teacher at Success Academy, said this isn’t the first time the governor has blamed unions.
“This is 20 years of Republican policy toward education coming to fruition,” Willet said. “They want to get rid of public schools.”
Willet added that he has worked for Leon County Schools for 19 years and has been a part of LCTA for 14 years.
“The unions aren’t trying to make it harder to teach students, they’re just trying to get better wages and working conditions for teachers,” he said.