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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Delay in applying for stimulus funds called strategic by education commissioner



Education Commissioner Eric Smith, responding to questions about why Florida has not submitted its application for federal education stabilization funds, said this morning that they have "strategically waited" to get all the right information.

"We’ve had the application and we’ve been working on it with the U.S. Department of Education and the governor’s office for weeks," Smith said. "And it is ready to go. It’s complete. The waiver is what we don’t have. We originally were told the waiver would come with the application. … It just hasn’t materialized yet. Now we’re told it will be May 1."

Because Florida has not maintained education spending at 2005-06 levels, as required by the federal stimulus program, the state must apply for a waiver to qualify for $2 billion in funds already figured into House and Senate education budgets for 2009-10.

"It’s nice to have part A and part B of a filing to make sure they’re consistent," Smith explained.

And then he said: "We would have originally liked to have seen both parts. To get the application approved and have funding flow ... and then the waiver not be approved would be catastrophic. We would have liked to have seen the waiver along with the application, which we originally thought we were going to be able to do."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said it's waiting for Florida's application and officials don't understand what the holdup is. Smith said his office is in daily contact with the federal education office.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, sent a letter to Smith, Gov. Charlie Crist and other key leaders telling them to get the application in.

Asked if he had a response to the letter from Meek, a candidate for U.S. Senate, Smith said: "No opinion. No comment."


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:55pm]


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