TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The United States Department of Education let Florida know in a letter that went out Monday to Florida Department of Education's Commissioner Richard Corcoran, alerting him that Florida is the only state agency left to submit a plan about what it plans to do with its American Rescue Plan funds.
More than four months after missing the deadline, Florida still has not submitted a plan to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) outlining how it will spend $2.3 billion in federal pandemic aid allocated to the state’s Department of Education (DOE) under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund allows states to apply for federal education funds in several different categories.
“Every minute these funds sit in Tallahassee is time that the funds are not being used to help Florida’s students,” wrote Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, a statewide teacher union, who sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 21.
Spar’s letter further explains “both the Trump and Biden administrations provided states with significant additional federal funding” to invest in schools and students, and the state has “missed out on summer learning opportunities these funds were, in part, intended to help fund.”
Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, noted that these federal funds are intended to span the COVID recovery over several years, and tapping into some of these funds are “premature by months, if not longer.”
The state received the first two-thirds of the money, but failed to provide a plan by the June 1 deadline and also blew past July and August submission timelines after talking with state Department of Education staff. Upon approval of the plan, the state would receive the remaining $2.3 billion.
Since the pandemic emerged in March 2020, the state’s DOE and schools have received about $15 billion in relief dollars, primarily for ESSER funds.
Federal pandemic aid to Florida includes:
- $4.54 billion from the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) fund;
- $249 million from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief (GEER) fund;
$10.9 billion in ESSER funding.
Florida is the only state that hasn't filed a plan for that money.
"FDOE’s delay raises significant concerns because of the unnecessary uncertainty it is creating for school districts across the state and because it is hindering their ability to confidently plan for how to use these funds to address the needs of students," said Ian Rosenblum, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs for the U.S. Department of Education, in a letter dated Oct. 4.
Florida received $7 billion or two-thirds of its American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) allocation in March to be used to support student "health and safety, and address their social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter said.