TALLAHASSEE — Hear that? It's a sigh of relief.
Just days after Florida lawmakers passed a 2009-10 budget that includes education spending propped up with nearly $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars for classrooms and schools, officials in Washington have actually given Florida the green light to receive the money.
Florida had to apply to the U.S. Education Department for a waiver to get the money, because rules for the stimulus require state education funding to be at certain levels that Florida did not meet. The Sunshine State's public school spending has gone down since 2006.
Had the Education Department not approved the waiver, Florida's schools would have been in serious trouble, given that the budget relies on $875 million in federal stimulus money just to keep per-pupil spending steady.
The department's approval releases $1.8 billion to Florida, and the state can apply for another $891 million in the fall.