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Florida’s largest teachers union calls for COVID-19 transparency, funding continuity

Organization demands Florida Dept. of Education hold districts ‘harmless’ for dips in enrollment

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Education Association sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, pleading with the Republican leader to hold school districts' funding steady, despite many of them experiencing lower-than-expected enrollment.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order on July 6 which, among other requirements, allowed districts to receive state FTE funding based on the forecasted enrollment rather than the enrollment gathered in an annual October survey.

During a virtual press conference Friday, the FEA called on the state to extend that financial continuity throughout the rest of the academic year, meaning that any enrollment shortfall that still exists during the annual February survey would not impact the respective district’s FTE-based funding.

“We believe a full school-year approach would assist districts in achieving the goal of retaining and hiring the personnel needed to staff the various ways we are educating students,” FEA President Andrew Spar said in the letter.

The union also demanded DeSantis promise that elementary and secondary schools will not see a decrease in state funds.

“We are calling on you to guarantee the funding levels for our PreK-12 schools and higher education institutions in the appropriations act you signed for the remainder of this fiscal year,” Spar wrote. “Districts are extremely concerned about possible cuts to this year’s budget and are holding back spending in preparation.”

More than a month since the first Florida school districts reopened their buildings, the state’s Department of Health has yet to make school-specific COVID-19 data available to the public. The FEA’s president issued third demand during Friday’s press conference the data be published, as well as the details of how that reporting mechanism operates.

“We are working to determine the structure and release of the report containing information regarding cases of COVID-19 in schools and daycares and will advise as soon as that has been finalized," the FDOH told News4Jax via email.

The governor’s press secretary, Cody McCloud, issued the following statement to News4Jax via email:

“We welcome the FEA’s acknowledgment that flexibility and financial stability, as outlined in the Emergency Order, are important to the progress and success of Florida’s students and public-school system. With this request, the FEA will hopefully end their lawsuit and other expensive, non-educational endeavors. Governor DeSantis will continue to be a champion of education in Florida and do what he feels is in the best interest of our students, parents, and educators.”

Cody McCloud, Press Secretary for Governor Ron DeSantis

The statement from the Governor’s spokesperson did not indicate any specific action will be taken on the FEA’s demands.

News4Jax also contacted the commissioner of education for a comment on the FEA’s demands and his office issued a statement:

It is clear that the FEA is admitting defeat, as they are now requesting that certain provisions in the Department of Education’s emergency order remain intact – the same emergency order they sued to get thrown out. Governor DeSantis has been a strong advocate for education funding, proven by his record of historic investments in Florida’s education system. Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran will continue to be a champion of education in Florida and do what they know is in the best interest of our students, parents and educators.

Florida Department of Edcation

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