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U.S. Department of Education files “cease and desist” against Florida Department of Education

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education filed a “cease and desist complaint” with the Office of Administrative Law Judges, requesting that the Florida Department of Education be prevented from withholding funding to Alachua County Public Schools and Broward County Public Schools.

The complaint claims that the Florida Department of Education’s reduction of funding to the two school districts is unlawful, “a plain violation of section 8522 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).” The complaint was filed after Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon notified the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) on Tuesday, October 26 that the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) had withheld more than $160,000 in state funding from the district. This included more than $147,000 in federal grant funding that the district was awarded, but had not yet drawn down, for following CDC recommended practices.

According to the complaint, the ESEA provides that “A State may not take into consideration payments under [the ESEA]… in 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.”

FLDOE has asserted in a letter to the USDOE that its actions do not violate section 8522 of the ESEA, but USDOE claims that the Project SAFE awards made to Alachua and Broward constitute “payments under the ESEA” and that FLDOE has “take[n] into consideration” these federal award payments in determining “the amount of state aid,” so FLDOE “has, in this manner, violated section 8522 of the ESEA.”

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An administrative hearing regarding the cease and desist order is scheduled for December 10, 2021.

The complaint can be read here.

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