TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is the last state to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education that's required before more than $2.3 billion in federal aid for Florida schools can be released, according to a letter sent to the state Monday.
The letter sent to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the state Department of Education missed the deadline to release 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 said the delay makes it harder for school districts to plan.
“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 the letter, Gov. Ron DeSantis' office said school districts still haven’t spent all of the first round of aid. Some district plans are being reviewed for the second round of funding and a few haven’t submitted them. It also said that the final 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.
Asked for comment on Rosenblum's letter, a Florida Department of Education spokesperson referred to the statement from DeSantis' office.
Democrats were quick to criticize the Republican 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.”