The US Department of Education sent a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Monday inquiring about the state of the state plan and stressing the need to unlock more than 2 , $ 3 billion in US bailout funds left over.
“The US Department of Education (Department) has now received a state ARP ESSER plan from 51 of the 52 state education agencies (SEA), except the Florida Department of Education,” wrote Ian Rosenblum, the agency’s acting deputy secretary. Office of Primary and Secondary Education.
The “Florida Education Department’s failure to meet its responsibilities is delaying the release of essential ARP ESSER resources that school districts and schools need to meet the needs of students most affected by the pandemic,” Rosenblum noted in the letter. .
The letter comes as the Biden administration and Governor Ron DeSantis have battled over Covid-19 and other key issues on the national political scene. The Republican governor has taken a tough stand against statewide school mask warrants as schools across the country grapple with how to provide safe, in-person education to all students while families await approval vaccine for children under 12.
In a bid to help states reopen schools safely during the pandemic, the Biden administration earlier this year announced the allocation of more than $ 122 billion in Covid relief for kindergartens through 12, with two-thirds of these funds – totaling $ 81 billion – “made available to states immediately.” The remaining federal dollars are dependent on the approval of a state plan detailing how the funds will be used, the US Department of Education said.
Florida has received more than $ 7 billion in this funding to support “student health and safety and meet their social, emotional, mental health and educational needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” , Rosenblum noted, and two-thirds of that allowance was released in March.
But the remaining third, totaling more than $ 2.3 billion, has yet to be released as Florida missed the June deadline to submit its state plan, the letter said. The state also missed “the July and August submission deadlines that were expected as a result of conversations with your staff,” Rosenblum wrote to Corcoran.
In a statement to CNN on Monday, the Florida governor’s office said, “To date, no district has expressed a need for funding that cannot be met with the resources currently available. Whenever this may change in the future, the State of Florida will coordinate with USDOE to ensure that Florida students and educators have all the resources they need. “
Monday’s letter also noted that the Florida Department of Education had taken part of the US bailout funds at the state level, but had yet to release funds to local agencies.
“We appreciate that the FDOE recognizes the need for the vital resources provided by the ARP Act, as evidenced by FDOE’s levy of over $ 177 million in ARP ESSER funds to date for use at the state level. Yet we have heard repeatedly from parents, teachers and school district superintendents in Florida that the FDOE has yet to award ARP ESSER funds to local education agencies, ”Rosenblum wrote.
“The delay in FDOE raises significant concerns because of the unnecessary uncertainty it creates for school districts across the state and because it hinders their ability to confidently plan how to use these funds to meet the needs of students. students, ”added the head of the department.
Rosenblum promised in the letter that the US Department of Education “stands ready to provide any support” Florida officials may need to move a state plan forward.