State returns withheld funds to ACPS

The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) returned previously withheld money to the Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) following a months-long mask policy battle. 

This week the district received $194,720 from the FDOE, the amount withheld due to the School Board of Alachua County implementing a face-mask mandate in August that the state said countered the Parents’ Bill of Rights because it did not include a parental opt-out.

ACPS dropped its student mask mandate on Nov. 18, leading to the FDOE’s decision to refund the money. On Sept. 23, the U.S. Education Department awarded the ACPS $148,000 through its Project SAFE grant program to reimburse the school districts funding withheld by the state.

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“We had received the federal check, but had not yet deposited it when we got the money back from the state, so we went back the federal check,” said ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson in an email. “But we very much appreciate the support we got from the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Miguel Cardona during the past few months. It was good to know they had our backs while we did what we knew was necessary to protect everyone in our schools.” 

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