State Watch

Department of Education: Florida missed deadline for $2.3B in federal aid

After failing to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for how Florida would use federal funding for its schools, the state will forgo $2.3 billion in COVID-19 relief money.

On Monday, the DOE sent a letter informing Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that he had missed the deadline to submit a plan and obtain 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,” acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Ian Rosenblum said in the letter, according to The Washington Post

Rosenblum added that he had “repeatedly” been contacted by “parents, teachers, and superintendents from school districts in Florida” about the funding.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) office responded to the letter, saying that Florida school districts still have money from the first round of aid to use.

“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’s office said, per the Post.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary, referred The Hill to the Florida Department of Education for comment. 

“First, let us be clear that Florida has never missed any deadline in relation to the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER III) funding appropriation,” Jared M. Ochs, the department’s director of communications and external affairs said in an email to The Hill.

Ochs said that Florida the state “communicated well in advance” of the June deadline that it would require additional time to create a plan. He added that his department plans to submit its plans for how to use the third batch of funding in October 2021.

DeSantis has garnered attention with other coronavirus-related decisions that impact Florida schools such as banning mask mandates and making quarantining optional for children exposed to someone with COVID-19. 

State Rep. Angie Nixon (D) was among those critical of the governor’s handling of school issues during the pandemic.

“As I watch one manufactured crisis after another, from banning masks to punishing schools for keeping our kids safe, to now refusing federal funds, it’s embarrassing,” Nixon tweeted about the issue. “The uncertainty this creates for schools and families is absurd.”

Updated at 6:35 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 Florida Ron DeSantis

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