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Release the funds and free districts to keep Florida’s students safe

TALLAHASSEE — No matter our race, background or ZIP code, we all want students to be safe at school. In fact, we believe that our public schools should be the safest place in America. During an unprecedented public health emergency, schools need a full toolbox to deliver on the promise of a safe, healthy education for all students.

Unfortunately, certain self-interested politicians are withholding necessary tools and funding that would help ensure a safe learning environment. Florida is sitting on $11 billion in federal funds intended for school districts to assist in Covid recovery, thus limiting the districts’ options to keep students safe. Around the nation, school districts have used the funds to invest in air purifiers, upgrade ventilation, enhance PPE, extend and enrich learning opportunities, and in countless other ways to get students back to school safely. In Florida, these funds are sitting in Tallahassee’s coffers instead of being provided to school districts as intended.

Since school districts have not been provided the tools they need from the state level, school boards and superintendents are turning to trusted medical professionals in their communities and listening to those voices as they decide how to start the upcoming school year.

“The Florida Education Association (FEA) applauds the school boards of Alachua and Duval counties for following the advice of doctors in their communities,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “We believe every county should be empowered to make decisions on how best to keep their students safe, in consultation with local health experts and based on the unique needs and circumstances in their area. We hope other districts also will follow the advice of trusted medical professionals.”

As we applaud the decisions made this week in Alachua and Duval, we once again call on Gov. DeSantis to release the federal funding to school districts so they can avail themselves of all necessary measures to ensure the safety of students and staff.

CONTACT: Joni Branch, joni.branch@floridaea.org, (850) 201-3223

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The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

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