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Statement from Dr. Simon on FDOE withholding $164,505 from district

Press release from Alachua County Public Schools

Below is a statement from Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon regarding the news that yesterday the state withheld more than $160,000 in funding to the district, including the entire amount of a federal grant which they have yet to receive:

Earlier this week we asked the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) for details about state funding withheld because of our COVID-19 protocols. This morning we were informed that FDOE has deducted $164,505 from Alachua County Public Schools’ October allocation. This amount represents the monthly salaries of our five school board members (for a total of $16,786) and the entire amount of the federal Project SAFE grant for which we applied last month.

As you may recall, the grant was awarded to the district for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the U.S. Department of Education approved an amount up to $147,717 for our district for this school year, we have not yet drawn down ANY of the grant funding. I made that fact very clear in my October 14th letter to the Florida Board of Education. I am appalled that the state would penalize the district by pulling funding we have not even received.

Altogether the state has withheld more than $192,000 from our district for taking appropriate action to protect students and staff. More than 75% of that amount is not board member salaries, but rather funding intended to support students.

It’s important to note that the U.S. Department of Education has informed FDOE more than once that withholding funding based on the Project SAFE grant violates federal requirements included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The most recent communication was sent to FDOE this past Monday.

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I have already contacted staff at the U.S. Department of Education to let them know of this development. I am confident Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and his department will continue to support local school districts that have chosen to prioritize health and safety despite intense political, legal, and financial pressure.

Carlee Simon, Ph.D.

Superintendent

Alachua County Public Schools

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