Florida PTA joins call for increased funding as schools take in Hurricane Maria refugees
The Florida PTA has lent its voice to the growing request that the state's public schools get adequate funding to serve students and teachers fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Maria, which slammed Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Gov. Rick Scott has waived rules making it easier for the children and educators to find places in the school system. But the rules for getting more money into the schools, delivered to districts on Friday, have raised questions among several lawmakers, who want to ensure that state funding covers the needs.
PTA leaders have sent a letter to Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart urging them to support the schools sufficiently, so they can best serve the new arrivals. President Cindy Gerhardt noted that the schools had stepped up to serve their communities as hurricanes hit Florida, and they're ready to do so again.
"They will bear the lion's share of the responsibility for educating Puerto Rican evacuees," Gerhardt wrote. "We know that traditional public schools cannot and should not turn away any child regardless of whether they are at or above capacity. It is imperative that our schools are prepared to support each of these students where they are and to make certain they have a continued path to reach their potential. With that in mind, we are asking that the Florida Department of Education;
- Increase the number of FTE counts to make sure that all schools are funded properly and that each school is given the resources needed to ensure the success of every student.
- Protect teachers and school districts from penalties stemming from our current accountability system. It's important that in this time of crisis we focus on the child and not let any individual educator or entity bear the burden of the influx of students coming to Florida.
- Test students in their native language. While many Puerto Rican students speak English, the level of comprehension will vary vastly from student to student. There is a substantial difference between bilingual and biliterate. We need to ensure the success of these students by testing on area content and not on their knowledge of the English language."
We have requested any updates or amendments to the Department of Education guidelines as they are issued. Stay tuned.