Department of Education files complaint against state for withholding money from Alachua schools

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The U.S. Department of Education filed a cease and desist complaint Thursday against the Florida Department of Education. The complaint requests the state be prevented from withholding money from Alachua County Public Schools.

It reads in part (in full at end of article), “A state may not take into consideration payments under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) determining the eligibility of any local educational agency in that State for State aid, or the amount of State aid, with respect to free public education of children.”

The complaint also includes, “Guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control makes it clear that K-12 schools can safely operate in person by implementing layered prevention strategies. Science-based strategies recommend by the CDC for preventing the spread of COVID-19 include universal and correct indoor masking”.

Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon notified the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday that more than $160,000 in state funding was kept from the district. This included more than $147,000 in federal grant money, which the Alachua Schools was awarded to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

The state kept $455,000 from Broward County schools for the same reason. The move is part of an ongoing feud between the White House and Republican Gov. Ron Desantis’ administration over coronavirus regulations in schools.

Earlier this month, the Florida State Board of Education approved plans to withhold a month’s salary from school board members in districts with classroom mask requirements and reduce overall funding if those counties receive a federal grant intended to offset the state’s fines.

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