Florida presents a plan for federal COVID relief funds for schools

Florida presents a plan for federal COVID relief funds for schools

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has submitted a plan to the federal government outlining how the state and school districts intend to spend some $7 billion in education aid through the American Rescue Plan Act pandemic stimulus law. 

Nearly a month after board members voted to extend its mandatory mask policy, the Hillsborough County School Board voted 6 to 1 to drop the requirement for a doctor to sign an opt out form.

Highlights

  • The state education department said it identified uses for the federal aid by analyzing standardized tests given to students in the spring. 

  • Under federal guidelines, the state Department of Education is given control over 10% of the money, with the remaining 90% going directly to school districts. 

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In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran wrote that the state plans to spend the money to advance four goals: closing achievement gaps, improving reading and math outcomes, bolstering outcomes in other content areas and enhancing student services and supports.

The state’s application was submitted Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Education. Its submittal will free up a third of the state’s allocation, or $2.3 billion, which was being withheld after Florida missed a June 7 deadline to provide the spending plan. 

Florida was the last state or U.S. territory to submit such a plan, and the issue became a political flashpoint, with Democrats criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration for being late. However, Florida Department of Education spokesman Jared Ochs argued in an email Wednesday that the state did not miss a deadline. 

“The Florida Department of Education communicated well in advance with the U.S. DOE via a written notice on May 14, 2021, 24 days prior to the June 7, 2021 deadline, that it would not be able to submit the state plan in June and would require additional time,” Ochs said.  The state can spend school aid from the American Rescue Plan through September 2024.