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State Spotlight: Florida’s CARES Plan Wisely Invests to Support Educators, Students


• ExcelinEd

Florida is using its CARES Act funds to boost reading proficiency, stem learning loss, and prepare educators for virtual instruction.

Background

In March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help states address the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bulk of the education funds flow directly to K-12 local education agencies and institutions of higher education. However, there is flexibility for each state education agency and governor’s office to direct funds to prioritized programs and needs, provided they adhere to federal guidelines.

Florida’s allocations of these flexible CARES funds include:

  • $173,585,800 for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund
  • $77,024,785 from the K-12 stabilization fund (10% of the full amount of $770,247,851 earmarked for K-12)
  • $223,605,188 for the Childcare Fund in support of early childcare and pre-K education

Highlights from Florida’s Plan

On June 11, the Florida Department of Education, in partnership with the Governor’s office, released its full plan for reopening schools and leveraging the CARES Act.

The major theme of Florida’s plan is clear: close persistent achievement gaps affecting disadvantaged students. Prolonged closures of schools and disruptions in providing instruction and core services have – as in every state – only exacerbated these gaps and pose a daunting challenge for recovery.

The Sunshine State’s plan outlines numerous initiatives aimed at education support and recovery. The most compelling seek to:

Boost Reading Proficiency

Early literacy is the foundation for all learning. Florida plans to help struggling readers by investing $5 million to train up to 2,000 reading coaches. In addition, the state will invest $5 million to support 20 regional reading specialists specifically trained to help educators over the next two years. The state will also invest to ensure high-quality curriculum and alignment of CARES child-care funding with early reading preparation.

Ensure Continuity for Students in Private Schools

Florida leads the nation in providing access to educational options for low-income students that would otherwise be out of reach. To help those students continue academic progress, Florida will invest $30 million in the tax-credit scholarship program to offset possible drops in funding along with a $15 million investment in a stabilization fund to provide grants directly to private schools that serve scholarship students and are at risk of closure due to declining enrollment.

Prepare for Additional Virtual Learning

With additional investments from the CARES Act, Florida Virtual School (FLVS) will be prepared for daily instruction of 4,000,000 students, ensuring the state can meet the needs for any future crisis response. In addition, FLVS will have the capacity to train up to 10,000 teachers per day so they can adapt to the needs of continued distance learning.

Provide Opportunities for Summer Recovery

Florida will immediately invest in programs and educators to support rising kindergarten and elementary students this summer who are known to be at risk of losing ground due to the pandemic’s disruption of intensive, in-school supports.


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