Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released the final criteria for its Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge — and it looks like Florida is still in jeopardy of losing eligibility for $100 million in federal education grants because of the state’s rejection of federal funds.

The final criteria for the competitive federal education grant includes a requirement that states must participate in a program funded through the Affordable Care Act.

According to the application updated yesterday:

A State that receives a grant must meet the following requirements:

(a) The State must continue to participate in the programs authorized under section 619 of part B of IDEA and part C of IDEA; in the CCDF program; and in the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program (pursuant to section 511 of Title V of the Social Security Act, as added by section 2951 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-148)) for the duration of the grant. [Emphasis added.]

This is currently an obstacle for Florida. The federal grants for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program were specifically rejected by the state Legislature, which justified its decision by citing the fact that the state is currently in litigation against the Affordable Care Act.

This has drawn criticism because the state did in fact accept funds from the Affordable Care Act — money for abstinence education.

Now advocates and the Department of Health have worked with the federal government to apply for the home visiting grants, again, working to make sure the state will receive the the existing home visiting programs and not be out of the running for the Race to the Top dollars. However, the Department of Health will need budget authority from the state Legislature in order to use the funds.

But the chair of the state’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, state Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, has said the Legislature will reject the funds again because it is still allocated by the health care reform law.

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, tells the Independent that she hopes the $100 million for education will be a sufficient incentive for the Florida Legislature to reconsider their rejection of the grants.

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