Florida is only state without a COVID spending plan. Feds want to know why.

Florida has failed to distribute ARP ESSER funds to districts, despite drawing down $177 million, ED says
By: | October 5, 2021

The U.S. Education Department sent a letter to Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran inquiring about the lack of an ARP ESSER plan from the state educational agency.

ED released two-thirds of each state’s ARP ESSER allocation in March, with the remaining one-third of funds to be released upon approval of the ARP ESSER state plan. Florida is the only state that has not yet submitted its ARP ESSER state plan.

ED set an initial June deadline for submission of ARP ESSER state plans. Florida’s Department of Education, or FDOE, missed that this deadline as well as July and August submission timelines that were anticipated following discussions with the U.S. Department of Education, Acting Assistant Secretary Ian Rosenblum wrote.

The letter also notes that the state has also failed to make the available ARP ESSER funds available to local education agencies in the state, despite drawing down $177 million for state administrative costs from the available funds.

The American Rescue Plan requires state education agencies to distribute funds to districts in an expedited and timely manner and no later than 60 days after the state received the funds from the federal government, Rosenblum wrote.

“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,” Rosenblum wrote.

In a statement to CNN, the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that “at this time, no district has articulated a need for funding that cannot be met with currently available resources. Whenever this may change in the future, the state of Florida will coordinate with USDOE to ensure Florida students and educators have all the resources they need.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s letter to Corcoran comes amid other high-profile disagreements between the Biden administration and Florida. The federal department has provided grant funding to Florida districts that are being sanctioned by the state for implementing universal mask mandates in schools despite a state rule prohibiting such mandates.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has announced an investigation into Florida’s ban on universal mask mandates.

Charles Hendrix covers education funding and other Title I issues for LRP Publications.