Crist Urges Florida Department of Education to Release $7 Billion for Florida Schools

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D – St. Petersburg) joined members of the Florida Congressional Delegation in sending a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran urging the release of the $7.04 billion to support Florida school districts address gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic allocated through the American Rescue Plan, which has been repeatedly delayed due to state inaction.

Under the American Rescue Plan, Florida was expected to allocate two-thirds of the more than $7 billion allocated for Florida schools within 60 days (May 24th) and submit an application with a fund distribution plan by June 7th in order to receive the remaining $2.3 billion. The state still has yet to distribute the initial $4.6 billion already allocated by the Department of Education, and was the last state to submit its plan to unlock the additional $2.3 billion only yesterday.

“Keeping our students, and their families and teachers safe and in class is paramount. Delaying the distribution of the funds to our students and teachers – invaluable aid as they learn and teach during the pandemic - is unconscionable,” said Rep. Crist. “This delay, on top of the Governor’s move to defund schools that implement common-sense COVID measures, is pitiful – Florida students and teachers deserve better.”

A PDF of the letter can be found here, with full text appearing below:


October 7, 2021 

Governor Ron DeSantis                                                         The Honorable Richard Corcoran
State of Florida                                                                       Commissioner
The Capitol                                                                             Florida Department of Education
400 S. Monroe Street                                                             Turlington Building, Suite 1514
Tallahassee, FL 32399                                                            325 West Gaines Street
                                                                                               Tallahassee, FL 32399

RE: Urge Expeditious Distribution of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Funds Now that State has Finally Applied for All Federal Emergency Relief

Dear Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran:

After many months of inexplicable delay by the State of Florida, we are pleased that the State of Florida has finally submitted a plan to draw down the federal emergency aid for public schools that was passed by Congress in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) seven months ago.  Under ARP, Congress and President Biden provided Florida students, educators and schools $7.4 billion to support school districts’ efforts to lift Florida K-12 public schools and address gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Congress required that “[e]ach State shall make allocations to local educational agencies in an expedited and timely manner, and, to the extent practicable, not later than 60 days after the receipt of such funds”.  Despite constant pleas from parents and educators, the State unfortunately slow-walked these dollars.

We are grateful that the U.S. Department of Education nudged the State of Florida on Monday to draw down these vital resources as Florida was the only state that had failed to apply for the remainder of the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding.  The delay was fiscally irresponsible and wrong.  It needlessly put Florida children at a disadvantage compared to children in other states.  These resources are especially important in a state that is ranked 46th in per pupil support for students.

Keeping our children and educators safe in the middle of the pandemic is paramount.  The State’s misguided focus on penalizing local school board members and educators for temporary safety protocols during a pandemic also is misguided.  Instead, Florida should be doing all it can to use all available resources to lift our students and educators in a myriad of beneficial ways by getting out the first 2/3 of ESSER funds to school districts.

We once again urge you to make up for lost ground.  Put the health and the safety of our Florida students first and release all of our federal funds to schools today.

Sincerely,

Kathy Castor                                                  Stephanie Murphy
MEMBER OF CONGRESS                          MEMBER OF CONGRESS   
 
Debbie Wasserman Schultz                            Charlie Crist                
MEMBER OF CONGRESS                          MEMBER OF CONGRESS  

Val Demings                                                   Frederica S. Wilson
MEMBER OF CONGRESS                          MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Al Lawson                                                      Lois Frankel                                                     
MEMBER OF CONGRESS                          MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Ted Deutch                                                     Darren Soto
MEMBER OF CONGRESS                          MEMBER OF CONGRESS

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