Florida’s application for up to $100 million in early learning federal grant money was rejected today. According to a statement issued by Gov. Rick Scott, his insistence that the grant not come with “strings attached” did not “win the favor” of the agency awarding the funds.
The federal government announced today that Florida did not win money through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which is part of President Obama’s federal education initiative. The grants will go toward streamlining and improving early learning programs in the nine states that won funds: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.
Arne Duncan, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said during today’s announcement at the White House that the programs were created to “prepare more children for success in school and life.”
Florida’s eligibility to apply for the grant was at one point in question because the state was not participating in a linked program that is funded through the Affordable Care Act. State legislators later accepted funds for the program in order to allow the state to apply for Race to the Top. While some GOP members of the Florida Legislature put up a fight when asked to accept the money, Scott had been supportive of the early learning grant throughout the process.
Scott preemptively stipulated, however, that the state “will only accept these grant dollars if the award comes back with no strings attached.”
“Additionally,” he said, “if during the process of implementing this grant, the state finds unexpected new regulations being placed on private businesses, I pledge that Florida will not move forward with implementation.”
Scott said in a statement today that those stipulations did not help Florida’s application for the federal funds.
“It is unfortunate that the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services decided not to award Florida the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant which would have gone to the benefit of at-risk children,” Scott said in a statement today.
“When Florida’s application was submitted for the grant in October, we made it clear that we would not accept grant money with strings attached, additional state spending obligations, or requirements that created new burdensome regulations on private providers,” he explained. “We stuck to our principles, and unfortunately our insistence against irresponsibly using one-time dollars for recurring government programs did not win the favor of the administration in Washington.”
“Creating a world-class education system that prepares students for the workforce is my top priority,” he said. “We will accomplish this goal for the benefit of our current students and generations of Floridians to come without sacrificing responsible spending.”