Families from Puerto Rico who were displaced by Hurricane Maria won’t have to worry about having transcripts or immunization records if they enroll their children in Florida’s public schools this month, state education officials announced Friday.
But for county school districts taking in the new arrivals, there is no guarantee the state will provide financial help to cover the cost of educating all those additional students.
The Florida Department of Education announced Friday morning public schools would get supplemental funding this fall only if they take in a minimum number of displaced Puerto Rican children — enough to increase district enrollment by at least 5 percent or a single school’s enrollment by at least 25 percent.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools — the state’s largest school district, with about 353,000 students enrolled last spring — would have to take in nearly 17,700 students from Puerto Rico in order to trigger the extra funding under the district-wide calculation. Broward County Schools, the second largest district in Florida with 269,800 students last school year, would need to add about 13,500 students across its district.
The state Department of Education did not immediately answer questions from the Herald/Times about how it arrived at that formula and why funding wouldn’t be assured to cover all the new students.
Some state lawmakers have questions, too — and concerns.
Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., the House Pre-K-12 education budget chairman, told the Herald/Times early Friday afternoon he’d spoken with DOE officials throughout the day to try to get answers and “to make the case that we’re going to have individual schools that are going to get clobbered by this.”