Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted during a Monday press conference that 1,400 Florida schools will share $200 million in state funds because they improved their grading ratings or received an ‘A’ evaluation last school year, including in areas heavily impacted by Hurricane Ian.
“This is funding for 1,400 schools across the state of Florida, and there’s really been a great showing from areas that just happened to be hit by Hurricane Ian,” DeSantis said.
The press conference was held at Toledo Blade Elementary School, one of the Sarasota County schools receiving funding.
“So, in Sarasota County, there will be 24 schools that will receive school recognition bonuses, including $142,000 right here at Toledo Blade Elementary School, which is a ‘A’ school,” DeSantis explained.
According to the Florida Department of Education website, 74 school districts, including traditional districts and a handful of lab schools, will receive funds for demonstrating “sustained or significantly improved student performance.”
Florida schools are graded on an A to F scale by state education officials based on a variety of factors, including student performance on annual statewide tests and graduation rates.
The distribution of funds varies depending on the district and school size. According to department documents, the Sarasota school district will receive a total of $3.8 million. The Lee County school district will receive $3.6 million distributed among 27 schools.
Collier County will receive $5 million divided among 38 schools, while Charlotte County will receive $612,000. Hardee County Elementary School will receive $54,030.
According to the department, the funds can be used for one-time expenses such as faculty and staff bonuses, educational equipment purchases, or temporary staffing.
However, these funds were distributed to districts other than those affected by Ian. Despite efforts during the 2022 Legislative session to disqualify 12 districts that mandated masks be worn in schools during the height of the COVID pandemic, most received a piece of the pie.
Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Duval, Alachua, Brevard, Indian River, Leon, Sarasota, and Volusia counties were almost excluded.
The argument was that losing the money would hold those districts “accountable” for going against DeSantis administration policy, which stated that parents, not local school boards, should decide whether their children wore masks in class.
The 12 school districts decided to require masks to protect students and faculty from the looming COVID pandemic in fall 2021. An earlier version of this penalty would have given the money to the 55 school districts that followed the parental-choice mandate. DeSantis eventually rejected the idea.
During his press conference, DeSantis suggested that additional funds from state hurricane relief could be used to help school teachers and staff who suffered property damage as a result of Ian.
“Still, there are a lot of needs,” DeSantis said. “I’ve asked the Department of Education to talk with the different school districts and affected areas to see how we can use the Florida Disaster Fund to help some of the teachers who may need assistance.”
That is a government-managed fund.
First Lady Casey DeSantis held her own press conference on Monday, announcing that the hurricane relief fund had raised $45 million. Since Hurricane Ian made landfall in September, Ms. DeSantis has been promoting hurricane relief donations.