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DeSantis Debuts 'Road Map' For Reopening Schools In Fall, Using CARES Act Money

Ron DeSantis
John Raoux/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. The Universal Studios theme park reopened today for season pass holders and will open to the general public on Friday. Bars and theme parks will be part of Florida's Phase 2 reopening after closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Using money Florida received from the federal CARES Act, Governor Ron DeSantis says the state has a “road map” to open schools for the fall.

He debuted the plan in Brevard County Thursday, alongside local officials and state education commissioner Richard Corcoran.

DeSantis says that federal money will also go toward summer programs that look to close the achievement gap, which the governor says widened under COVID-19 closures.

We’ve been able to provide a road map to announce the return of our schools to on-campus instruction, and to bring long-term improvements to the instructional continuity, using the federal funds provided through the CARES Act, to make significant investments in our education system,” the governor said.

Through the CARES act money earmarked for education in Florida, the state received more than $770 million meant for K-12 schools. The Department of Education says of that money, it can “directly spend” $475 million.

About $173 million will be held for emergency flexible funding for districts, and $223 million will go to early learning initiatives.

Corcoran and DeSantis both expressed a desire for schools to open at their full capacity.

"We want schools fully open in the fall,” Corcoran said, “because there is no better way to educate than to have that great teacher in front of that child."

The state Department of Education published its 100-plus page reopening plan today. It includes guidance for districts on response to confirmed coronavirus cases. It also directs districts to draw up an “instructional continuity plan,” as DOE advises there are “no guarantees that education will go uninterrupted in the 2020-2021 academic year.”

And, if parents elect not to send their students back based on concerns about COVID-19 spread, the agency says: “If some families still do not return in August, districts and schools must work to close any potential gaps in learning for those students.”

DeSantis stressed Thursday that he believes reopening plans, varying by district, are best left to the districts themselves:

“We believe those are locally-driven decisions. We believe what that looks like may look different in Brevard than it does in Miami-Dade, than it does in Baker County.”

Meanwhile, statewide teachers union the Florida Education Association responded in a statement to the state's plan, saying "safety must remain top priority" in any reopening plan.

“Ultimately, parents in local communities throughout the state will decide how and when schools reopen,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “No matter what dictates come down from Tallahassee, students will not return to schools until parents have confidence their child and their child’s teachers will be safe and protected.”

More than $870 million in CARES Act money will go toward higher education.

DeSantis broke down where some of that CARES Act funding will go specifically:

$64 million for summer programs for grades K-5, with concentration on reading curriculum

$20 million to help schools identify and adopt reading curriculum and supplemental instructional materials in grades K-13

$15 million to train and develop 2,000 new reading coaches

$16.9 million to child care providers that agree to reopen as part of the state’s reopening plan

$20.9 million for a transition-to-Kindergarten program

$45 million in safety net funds, including money to protect Florida Tax Credit scholarships

$8 million aimed at allowing every graduate in 2020-2021 to take SAT and ACT tests for free

$35 million to increase capacity at short-term, in-demand market certificate programs at state colleges & technical colleges

$10.9 million for career and technical education grants

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.