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Secretary of Labor Says Reopening Schools Will Help Low-Income Workers, Women Get Back on the Job

Photo: Jonathan Borba
Photo: Jonathan Borba

The U.S Secretary of Labor Gene Scalia called schools essential businesses at a press conference Thursday with Gov. Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville.

Scalia said that reopening Florida schools in August wouldn’t just benefit low-income workers who don’t always have the option to telecommute. 

He said opening back up classrooms would also benefit working women who still bear the majority of the burden of childcare.

“If we don’t get our schools open, it’s going to be that much harder for working adult women who are facing a higher unemployment rate to get back to work.”

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Scalia said before the pandemic women had a lower unemployment rate than men, but since mid-March that has flipped with more women being furloughed and laid off. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis said if his children were old enough he would send them back to school this fall. The governor and First Lady have a newborn, two and three year old.

DeSantis said he was less concerned about children contracting and dying from the virus than he was about the effects of a widening achievement gap and lack of socialization. 

“I’m also worried about missing out on activities. I don’t want some football player to miss a season or not be able to play when they’ve been working their whole life to be able to do well, maybe go to college.”

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DeSantis said there should be special accommodations made for children who are high-risk for the coronavirus and can’t attend school safely.

The Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed an order Monday requiring schools to offer in-person instruction starting in August. 

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Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.