The Florida Department of Education has disputed a claim by Santa Rosa County Schools Superintendent Karen Barber that the grant period for ESSER grants via CARES Act funding was changed “midstream” after the district failed to utilize more than $300,000 in related funding.
ESSER funding is Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief via CARES Act funding administered by the State of Florida.
Barber made the assertion during the Santa Rosa County School Board’s June 16 budget workshop, which can be viewed at the following link (fast forward to the 33:39 mark to watch her related comments):
“I don’t know why they changed the grant period midstream, but that’s what happened,” Barber stated.
However, according to the Florida Department of Education, that is not true.
“The ESSER grant period was not changed,” stated the Florida Department of Education in a September 20 statement to South Santa Rosa News.
The issue came to light after Title 1 schools in the district were told to submit certain budget requests but were later informed salaries paid via ESSER grant funding had “used up all the money.”
During that aforementioned June 16 budget workshop, Susan McCole, assistant superintendent of finance, explained how the district had been able to use up most, but not all, ESSER grant funding (see her related comments starting around the 27:05 mark in the following link):
“Those dollars aren’t lost forever, okay,” Barber went on to say during the workshop.
Although the district can reapply for the funding, the money will now be restricted for certain expenditures.
According to FDOE, the district’s unexpended funds must be reapplied for and will now need to be spent “to implement summer enrichment camps that target public school students’ academic and extracurricular needs, after school programs, and individualized tutoring services that address public school students’ academic, social, and emotional needs’ as required in the GAA.”
School district administrators were summoned to a September 19 meeting in which the ESSER grant/Title 1 allocation issue was revisted.