CNN – Florida is the only state that has yet to submit a plan to the US Department of Education on how it will use federal Covid-19 relief funds for schools, according to a new letter from the agency – the latest in a series of escalating positions against the Biden administration.
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 that more than 2 , $ 3 billion in US bailout funds remaining.
“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.
The US Department of Education recently reimbursed a group of Florida school board members whose salaries had been withheld for implementing mask mandates in defiance of the governor’s order that parents, not caregivers, school, decide how to protect their children during the pandemic. And last month, the department’s civil rights enforcement arm said it was opening an investigation into whether the Florida Education Department “could prevent school districts in the state from considering or responding to needs of students with disabilities “with the mask ban.
In an effort 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 at 12, with the 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 that “at this time no district has expressed a need for funding that cannot be met with the resources currently available. Whenever possible 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.
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