TAMPA, Fla. — Following a vote by the school board to keep students home for the first four weeks of the school year because of the coronavirus pandemic, one of its leaders says the state is threatening to cut funding from Hillsborough County Public Schools.
“I don't think we're going to be able to manage a $23-million loss. That's a lot of money,” school board member Cyndi Stuart said.
It’s a hefty price to pay, but that's how much money Stuart says the district could lose a month if leaders choose to move forward with their current plan.
The board voted to change its original plan that was sent to the Department of Education last Thursday. The next day, Superintendent Addison Davis received a letter from the Florida Department of Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran.
The commissioner said he was gravely concerned with the vote, saying the decision made contradicts the district's original plan that opened brick and mortar schools and gave parents a choice between eLearning, virtual and in-person lessons.
“I wasn't surprised that they are. We’re one of the first districts, I think to go out and say we voted to delay this implementation of this plan,” Stuart said.
Corcoran, during an education roundtable discussion Monday held with Gov. Ron DeSantis in Riverview, gave the district three options: Follow the previously-approved plan, submit an amended plan or withdraw the original plan and proceed "under the existing statutory framework."
"Sixty-six districts are all very content with their plans that they submitted. We have one district that submitted a plan, liked their plan and then suddenly went back,” Corcoran said.
Despite the push back, Stuart says none of the district's plans to start the year online have changed, but any funding cuts from the Department of Education could influence their decisions moving forward.
“The number that we got yesterday that I heard from the superintendent was $23 million per month. That's a lot of money for this district to lose -- our base salary every two weeks is $65 million," Stuart said. "I think that we're going to have to find some sort of compromise and whether or not that is that we do some eLearning until the 31st and then we find a way to bring maybe our most challenged students into a brick and mortar setting."
Stuart says the board will have an emergency meeting this Thursday to discuss what will happen moving forward.
10 Tampa Bay reached out to the school district; it said they aren't aware of any proposed budget cuts from the state and no meeting is on the schedule this Thursday.
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