Florida misses deadline to receive $2.3 billion in federal aid

U.S. Department of Education – Federal Aid – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Evgenia Parajanian

Several Florida school districts are not happy and speaking up. According to a letter sent to the state Monday, Florida is the last state to submit its plans to the U.S. Department of Education that is required before more than $2.3 billion in federal aid for Florida schools can be released. 

The failure to submit the plan has prompted multiple complaints from disappointed politicians and officials. 

The letter sent to the Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran stated that the state Department of Education did not make the deadline to release the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) money.

“The Department released the first two-thirds of each State’s allocation in March and required each State to submit its plan for spending its ARP ESSER funds by June. FDOE did not meet this deadline, nor did it meet the July and August submission timelines that were anticipated following conversations with your staff,” wrote Ian Rosenblum, the federal department’s deputy assistant secretary for policy and programs.

Rosenblum emphasized how the delay makes it much harder for school districts to plan. The state education department’s “failure” to submit the plan “is delaying the release of essential ARP ESSER resources that are needed by school districts and schools to address the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic,” Rosenblum added.

“We have heard repeatedly from parents, teachers, and superintendents from school districts in Florida that FDOE has not yet awarded ARP ESSER funds to local educational agencies,” he wrote.

In response to that letter, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office said school districts have yet to spend all of the first rounds of aid. Some district plans are currently being reviewed for the second round of funding and a couple of them have not been submitted. It also said that the last third of the money is supposed to last through September 2024.

“If you are willing to identify any of the specific school districts that have complained, we would be happy to provide you the specifics for those districts. We will continue to ensure their needs are met,” DeSantis’ office said.

A Florida Department of Education spokesperson referred to the statement that came from DeSantis’ office when asked for comment on Rosenblum’s letter. 

Many were quick to criticize the Florida governor’s administration for failing to submit a plan for the third round of funding.

“It’s embarrassing,” Democratic state Rep. Angie Nixon said in a statement released by her office. “The uncertainty this creates for schools and families is absurd. All of Florida’s children, no matter who they are or where they live, deserve everything available in order to survive and thrive in this unimaginably difficult time.”

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